Gov.-elect Phil Murphy has nominated Dr. Shereef Elnahal as the commissioner of the state’s department. If confirmed, he will be the first Muslim-American cabinet member in the state.
Elnahal currently serves as the assistant deputy under secretary for health for Quality, Safety & Value at the US Department of Veterans Affairs. In this role, he has led the department’s efforts in transparency, posting wait times and care delivery data for every hospital and clinic. He was originally appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2015. He also founded the Diffusion of Excellence Initiative, an initiative aimed at establishing consistency in clinical care delivery and best practices.
Elnahal will face major challenges in the state regarding health care, as New Jersey has some of the most expensive health insurance costs in the US, and is ranked among the highest states in terms of health care expenditures per capita.
The Department of Health is tasked with strengthening New Jersey’s health system. The Department operates in four branches: Public Health Services, Health Systems, Integrated Health, Office of Population Health and the Office of Policy and Strategic Planning.
“We need strong leadership in the Department of Health that recognizes and understands the challenges we face across our state — improving the quality and delivery of care and closing coverage gaps, restoring funding for the women’s health programs that have been zeroed-out for the past eight years, helping close the out-of-network loopholes that erode affordability and ensuring a fair and equitable system of charity care that our urban and safety net hospitals need and rely upon,” said Murphy in a release.
“The commissioner must remain vigilant given the winds blowing up from Washington. New Jersey must be a leader in fighting against current and future efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act,” he said.