South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley has announced the next head of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Haley looked out-of-state to bring in Tony Keck from Louisiana, where he was a Deputy Secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals. Prior to that, he was an adviser to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Tuesday’s announcement marks Haley’s fifth cabinet choice since November.
Haley called Keck a “rock star” in the field of health services, citing his work in Jindal’s administration. However, Keck will oversee an agency that is currently operating at a $228 million deficit.
In a press conference Tuesday, Keck said the inevitable cutbacks will be an issue. However, he said he wants to improve the state’s healthcare programs in the long-term.
You don’t want to just be talking about money. You want to talk about improving people’s lives–improving healthcare, keeping kids healthy so they can succeed in school, keeping families together by making sure they get the services they need. That’s what it’s all about.
Keck also faces the balancing act with healthcare reform. On one hand, South Carolina is suing to stop the Affordable Care Act from being implemented. However, Haley has said she will also look for ways the state can create its own health insurance system in order to opt-out of the federal version.
As part of his previous job, Keck oversaw Louisiana’s behavioral health, public health, developmental disabilities, and aging & adult services offices; although, he had only held the job since October. He was Jindal’s advisor on health and social services for much of 2009 and was the agency’s chief of staff before that.
He also worked with Johnson & Johnson before moving to Louisiana government. He served in the company’s Latin American division in Chile for four years as a consultant.