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After a period of turmoil last summer, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) continued to firm up its top leadership roster on Thursday with the announcement of two hires in the key areas of health care and department equity.

Matt Anderson, a lawyer and 14-year senior leader at the Minnesota Hospital Association, will become assistant commissioner for health care, overseeing the agency's largest single program, Medical Assistance, which insures 1.1 million low-income Minnesotans.

Karen McKinney, a professor of biblical studies at Bethel University, will become the agency's chief equity officer, "guiding a departmentwide process of training, examining our own biases, and interpersonal cultural development," DHS said in a statement.

Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told a Minnesota Senate panel last month that the equity officer would report directly to her as part of an effort to coordinate equity efforts across the agency, which has 7,300 employees. The most recent DHS affirmative action plan noted that the agency would take steps to improve retention of employees who are minorities or people with disabilities.

Anderson will take the helm of Medical Assistance, also known as Medicaid, and MinnesotaCare programs with $13 billion in spending as the agency gears up to take new bids on contracts with managed care organizations, which manage the health care of 890,000 enrollees.

DHS was set to rebid the contracts serving enrollees outside the Twin Cities this year and planned to contract for the metro counties next year. But the bidding got pushed back one year after some counties, which also contract with DHS as de facto Medicaid managed care plans, challenged the process in court. Until the contracts are rebid and signed, existing arrangements will remain in place.

Anderson was described by colleagues as a veteran health care executive with intimate knowledge of Minnesota's markets. "Matt has been really an expert here on health care policy," said Wendy Burt of the hospital association.

Last month, Harpstead announced the hiring of Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa as assistant commissioner for community supports, which includes disability services, mental health and addiction treatment. Harpstead also told the Legislature she plans to create a new position of deputy commissioner for communications and external relations, but no candidate has been announced so far.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192 Twitter: @GlennHowatt