Originally created 09/06/97

Medicaid official resigns position



ATLANTA - Georgia's Medicaid commissioner, Marjorie P. Smith, resigned Friday after a tenure marked by clashes with health providers as she battled fraud and fought runway costs.

Gov. Zell Miller named William R. Taylor to succeed her on Dec. 1. Dr. Taylor, a physician, is director of quality assurance at the state Medicaid agency.

Ms. Smith, 50, will transfer to the Department of Juvenile Justice, where she will serve as a special assistant to Commissioner Eugene Walker, responsible for the health care of juvenile offenders.

"Marge has done a wonderful job in one of the toughest jobs in state government," said Mr. Miller. "She brought quality health care to the clients she served and she brought accountability to the taxpayers she worked for."

Under orders from Mr. Miller to curb rising costs, Ms. Smith cracked down on the non-emergency transportation system after finding that some companies that specialized in hauling Medicaid patients to the doctor or the hospital were billing for phantom trips.

At various times, she angered doctors, nursing home owners, pharmacists and drug manufacturers with other cost-saving measures.

"My priority was to stop the runaway growth of Medicaid because of fraud and abuse," she said in a statement Friday. "I believe we accomplished that."

Before her appointment to the post in 1994, Ms. Smith was director of the Governor's Commission on Health Care. She served as assistant Medicaid commissioner from 1991 to 1993.

She has a nursing degree and formerly was director of nursing for a 500-bed hospital in South Carolina.

Dr. Taylor spent 17 years with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a medical epidemiologist, medical officer and branch chief. He also was a medical officer for the federal Health Care Financing Administration.