DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The director of Maine’s Medicaid program has been named to head the program in Iowa.

Eugene I. Gessow has been director of the Bureau of Medical Services in Maine since October 2000. Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kevin Concannon, who came to Iowa from Maine earlier this year, announced the appointment Tuesday.

Gessow, who worked for Concannon in Maine, will assume his new duties later this month.

“My understanding is the state is fiscally challenged and one of the things that I’ll try and be helpful with is the financial management – identifying sources of federal revenue – that’s clearly one of the pieces,” said Gessow, 56.

Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income people. In Iowa, the program will cost about $2.1 billion this year. The state will pay about $700 million and the federal government funds the rest.

About 266,000 Iowans, more than half of them children, were enrolled in Medicaid in May.

Concannon and Gessow initiated an aggressive program in Maine to lower the cost of prescriptions. The Healthy Maine program provided discounted prescription drugs to Medicaid clients who met poverty guidelines.

“It provided people with access to drugs at prices substantially below retail,” Gessow said.

The program, which required drug manufacturers to provide discounts of up to 25 percent for eligible participants, was shut down in December after drug companies won a legal challenge in a federal appeals court.

Other initiatives that help control drug costs still in effect in Maine include a preferred drug list program and supplemental rebates.

Concannon said Gessow’s experience in lowering drug costs and managing the financial side of the program will help in Iowa.

“Gene has a well-deserved reputation for finding ways to maximize federal matching dollars, which is a welcome specialty when demand for service is so great and when our state dollars are spread so thin,” Concannon said.

Gessow acknowledged that Iowa may be different from Maine and that he plans to study the state’s needs before implementing new programs.

“I have to learn about Iowa. I don’t know what all the issues are so I’ll come with an open mind,” he said.

On the Net: Iowa Department of Human Services:

Maine Department of Human Services:

AP-ES-06-03-03 1335EDT

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