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Health exchange names interim CEO

On March 26, 2019, Jeffery Bustamante was named interim CEO of beWellnm, the state’s health insurance exchange. (COURTESY BEWELLNM)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The board of  New Mexico’s health insurance exchange created through the Affordable Care Act, unanimously named Jeffery Bustamante as interim CEO at a special meeting Tuesday evening.

Bustamante is currently the organization’s director of policy and research.

He replaces Cheryl Gardner, whose two-year employment contract ends March 31 and was not extended by the board at a regular meeting last week. Gardner has been placed on paid administrative leave for the remainder of her contract, beWellnm spokesman Tom Garrity confirmed.

At the meeting Tuesday, Board Chairman Dr. J.R. Damron asked Vice Chair David Shaw to name an executive search committee to find a new CEO. The members of that committee are Teresa Gomez, Brandon Fryar, Dr. J. Deane Waldman and Dr. David P. Leachman, according to a beWellnm news release. Dr. Martin Hickey will serve as the chairman.

In the release, the board’s actions were described as providing “a swift and smooth transition of operations.”

Gardner has not responded to a request for comment.

The state’s exchange has had four leaders in the six years since its creation in 2013. Mike Nunez of the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance was interim CEO until 2014, when he was replaced by Amy Dowd, who was executive director of Idaho’s exchange. In 2016, Dowd left for a position with Molina Healthcare, after which the exchange’s then-director of communications and outreach, Linda Weeden, served as interim CEO. Gardner, previously the executive director of Arkansas’ exchange, replaced Weeden in 2017.