Director of the California Department of Health Care Services: Who Is Jennifer Kent?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Director Jennifer Kent

Jennifer Kent is returning for a third tour of duty, this time as director, at the government department overseeing Medi-Cal and its 11 million participants.

Governor Jerry Brown’s new head of the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) replaces Toby Douglas, who announced his resignation last September after three tumultuous years of change generated by the Affordable Care Act and the state’s expansion of its version of the federal Medicaid program.  

Kent, 41, graduated in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and history from St. Mary’s College of California.

She joined the Sacramento law firm Wilke, Fleury, Hoffelt, Gould & Birney as a legislative assistant in 1997. Kent left to become senior health and regulatory analyst for the California Optometric Association in January 1999, before being elevated to director in December 2000.

While director, she picked up a Master’s degree in public administration in 2002 from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

In August 2004, Kent left the private sector for government work, signing on as DHCS deputy director. She moved to the department’s parent in March 2007, as associate secretary of legislative affairs for the state Health and Human Services Agency

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped Kent in April 2008 to be deputy legislative secretary in the office of the governor. Kent was the legislative lead on issues of health, human services, managed care, revenue and taxation, health-related boards, veteran affairs and alcohol regulation.

He also put her on the California Children and Families Commission, better known as First 5 California, and appointed her chair in 2010. She served two years.

Kent departed the governor’s office when Brown took over in January 2011. She soft-landed at DHCS as associate director, where she was responsible for implementing state and national health reform initiatives for Medi-Cal. She stayed just four months.

Kent left government work in May 2011 to become a principal at Health Management Associates (HMA), an independent, national research, management and consulting firm with 15 offices nationwide. The company specializes in health care reform and publicly financed health care programs.

She was there for more than two years before being hired on as executive director of Local Health Plans of California (LHPC) in September 2013. LHPC represents 14 local, publicly governed or not-for-profit health plans throughout the state that provide “culturally appropriate, accessible health care.”  

That’s the job she held when Governor Brown, a Democrat, invited her back to her old department, this time as director.

Kent is registered without party preference, but media reports in the past (here and here) referred to her as a Republican. The position requires Senate confirmation.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Jerry Brown Appoints New Health Care Services Head (by David Siders, Sacramento Bee)

Douglas Resigns as DHCS Director (by George Lauer, California Healthline)

Jennifer Kent (LinkedIn)

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Office of the Governor)

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