LINCOLN — Nebraska’s plans to create a two-tier benefit system for expanding Medicaid to about 94,000 more low-income Nebraskans will continue despite the resignation of the state Medicaid director.

Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that Matthew Van Patton is stepping down to return to the private sector. Van Patton’s last day will be Feb. 7. Details of Van Patton’s plans were not available.

Ricketts praised Van Patton’s accomplishments during his nearly two years in Nebraska, as did Dannette Smith, CEO of the State Department of Health and Human Services.

“That young man has done a yeoman’s job, an excellent job for the state of Nebraska,” Smith said. “We are going to stay steadfast and continue down that path he has set for us.”

Van Patton’s largest undertaking as head of the HHS Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care has been crafting plans for voter-approved Medicaid expansion. The department has set Oct. 1 as the launch date for the plan, called Heritage Health Adult. It is slated to start nearly two years after voters passed the ballot measure.

Nebraska is seeking federal approval for the plan to provide different benefits and more stringent requirements, including work requirements, than traditional Medicaid.

As proposed, newly eligible Medicaid patients would get dental, vision and over-the-counter medication benefits only if they complied with a number of requirements. The plan also would end retroactive coverage for most Medicaid patients.

Jeremy Brunssen, deputy director of finance and program integrity, will serve as interim Medicaid director while a search is conducted to replace Van Patton.

Van Patton, who came from South Carolina, left a job as president and chief executive officer of Cadre Medical Technologies, a health care technology company, to take the Nebraska position. He previously held various administrative positions within the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

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Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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