Oregon taps North Carolina deputy director to lead Medicaid system

A deputy director of Medicaid policy in North Carolina is coming to Oregon to direct the state’s Medicaid program.

On July 24, Emma Sandoe will become the director of Oregon’s Medicaid program, which provides 1.4 million low-income people with medical, dental and mental health care, Oregon Health Authority officials said. The Medicaid program has a two-year budget of $28 billion, or approximately $14 billion per year, to provide care to more than one in four Oregonians.

Sandoe has worked in the North Carolina Medicaid program since 2019. In that role, she has served as the state’s liaison to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and overseen work in developing and implementing policies to improve health equity in North Carolina’s health care system. Sandoe also has worked as the Medicaid liaison to tribal nations in North Carolina.

Oregon officials said Sandoe worked on North Carolina’s Medicaid expansion, which started in December and will provide health care benefits to more than 450,000 people.

Her arrival comes at a critical time for Oregon’s Medicaid system. The state’s new five-year Medicaid plan received federal approval — and an additional $1.1 billion in federal funding — to provide housing, food and climate support by distributing air conditioners to improve overall wellbeing.

In a statement, Health Authority Director Dr. Sejal Hathi said Sandoe’s record of expertise and innovation in health equity is a good fit for Oregon.

“She brings both vision and pragmatism to this role, as well as strong relationships with our federal partners, which will enable Oregon to continue to set the pace in implementing vanguard Medicaid coverage and benefits that address the major health issues facing our communities, such as homelessness and climate change,” Hathi said.

Sandoe was hired after a national search. Her salary will be $171,312 annually.

She said in a statement she’s looking forward to starting her work in Oregon.

“I’m excited to collaborate with Medicaid staff and partners to expand access to care, improve peoples’ lives and eliminate health inequity,” Sandoe said.

Vivian Levy, Oregon’s interim Medicaid director, will continue to work as deputy director for Medicaid, Hathi said, praising Levy’s work in overseeing the system after Medicaid Director Dana Hittle left her role in October.

Before working for North Carolina, Sandoe worked as a press secretary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a budget analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sandoe also has taught health policy classes at Harvard University and Duke University. She received a doctoral degree in health policy and political analysis from Harvard University in 2019 and a master’s in public health from George Washington University in 2010. She also earned two bachelor’s degrees in general biology and political science from the University of Southern California in San Diego, graduating in 2008.

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