Cindy Beane smiles thinking about how far she’s come. “When I was a young teacher, I didn’t know the difference between Medicaid and Medicare.” Insert eyeroll here… and the warm laugh that is Cindy’s trademark. She dreamt of being a teacher but newly married and without viable work in the classroom, Cindy pivoted to work with people with severe mental illness. She fell in love with the work and embraced an environment that helped shape her work style and leadership skills. In the largest mental health center “this side of the Mississippi” Cindy received investment in leadership development, was a student of Stephen Covey, and cut her teeth on a team-coverage model that honed her adaptability and flexibility skills. Its where she, “learned how to roll with it.” Cindy earned a masters in social work, building a lasting desire to serve people with physical and intellectual disabilities and substance use disorders. When Cindy transitioned to state government the first stop was a division of behavioral health in the department of human services, ultimately landing in Medicaid fifteen years ago. Here she’s stayed and thrived. Her leadership mark is felt across the West Virginia Medicaid program, of which she’s intensely and rightfully proud.
Like many Medicaid leaders, Cindy Beane’s commitment to the program is both personal and professional. At NAMD, we refer to this as “your why”. On a personal level, because she participated in Medicaid, Cindy’s Grandmother could age in place, which brought the family great comfort. As a policy expert, Cindy is confident West Virginia Medicaid is life saving and life changing. Medicaid programs help mountaineers be healthy and have full lives – enhancing what West Virginia offers as a place to live and work. Cindy is deeply proud to represent a state that values health coverage and makes help available for people who need it.
As Cindy takes the helm of NAMD’s Board, there’s a lot on her mind. She and the Board prioritize unwinding the public health emergency and the continuous coverage requirement. For people determined to no longer be eligible for their state Medicaid program, this means a smooth transition to another healthcare resource. For the state agency workforce, this means regaining an effective eligibility function, which while put on hold these last three years, is core to all state programs. As president, Cindy will also prioritize children and youth in foster care. The COVID pandemic triggered a significant rise in the foster care population and demands a renewed focus on improving services and coordination. She sees a great opportunity to better align Medicaid and child welfare both at the state and federal level.
As a passionate advocate for the program and the people it serves, Cindy can see some common misconceptions folks hold concerning Medicaid. So, what would she like people to better understand about Medicaid? First, most people who qualify for Medicaid are in the workforce but are low wage earners or otherwise outside of employer-sponsored insurance. Second, that Medicaid can be for anybody, not “other people.” The program is ready to fill the gap for young low-income families, bridge health care needs between jobs, provide for a medically complex child, and support our elders to age in place or close to home. Cindy keeps these stories front-of-mind for her and her staff and encourages us all to center a discussion about Medicaid to be a discussion about people.