A former top employee who worked for Catholic bishops in the state has been hired by the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis to help run Medicaid, the safety net program designed to provide health care to the poor, elderly and disabled.
According to a state website Ken Kniepmann was brought on as the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Policy and Quality Jan 30. He earns $131,725.
Prior to being hired at the agency, Kniepmann was the Associate Director for Health at the Florida Conference for Catholic Bishops for the past four years. He was the executive director of the John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee prior to joining the Conference for Catholic Bishops.
Kniepmann published a trio of articles on his website in July 2021 discussing the supernatural healing power of God and the ability of prayer to “heal the pain and hurt that has been wrought by the pandemic.”
Kniepmann was hired after DeSantis appointed Jason Weida as AHCA Secretary on Jan. 26.
Weida, who had been serving as interim AHCA Secretary, thanked DeSantis for trusting him to head the agency in what he said was a “critical period” in history. “I am committed to protecting innocent life, to safeguarding children from experimental procedures, and to promoting freedom from the biomedical security state,” Weida wrote in his tweet.
After the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest or pregnancies that endanger women’s lives.
The policy isn’t permanent law. Instead, it’s been amended onto the health and Human Services budget via a rider and over the years has been applied to the Indian Health Service, Medicare and the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
While the Hyde Amendment precludes federal money from being used for abortions, states can choose to cover abortions with the required matching state funds. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 16 states do provide abortions in their Medicaid programs. Florida, though, is not one of those states.
Given that Medicaid doesn’t cover abortions in Florida, longtime social services advocate Karen Woodall is not worried about Kniepmann’s appointment.
On the contrary, she said she is optimistic that he will use his position to advocate on making quality improvements to the program that provides health care for the poor, elderly and disabled, which the Conference for Catholic Bishops does.
“I work closely with them on everything but the choice issue,” said Woodall, the co-founder and executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy. Woodall noted that the Catholic lobby has worked for quality improvements in Medicaid.
According to the agency’s organizational chart, there are three Deputy Secretary Medicaid positions: Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Policy and Quality, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Finance and Data Analytics, and Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Operations.
Kniepmann filled the policy and quality position and Bryan Meyer currently serves as the Assistant Deputy Secretary for Medicaid Operations.
Meanwhile, Florida Politics reported last week that Austin Noll left the Florida Healthy Kids to join the Agency as a Medicaid Deputy Secretary.
Tom Wallace continues to serve as the Deputy Secretary for Medicaid, according to the organizational chart.