Executive Team

The Executive Team is made up of Department leaders who are in charge of carrying out our mission and vision.

Susan E. Birch, MBA, BSN, RN
Executive Director

As Executive Director, Sue Birch oversees the operations and strategic direction of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. The Department has a budget of more than $7 billion and is the single state agency administering Colorado Medicaid and the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program. Birch was appointed the executive director of the Department by Governor Hickenlooper in January 2011. Director Birch directs the Department’s efforts to improve the health of Medicaid and CHP+ clients and increase access to care across the state while containing costs.

Under Birch’s leadership, the Department has been awarded numerous grants and performance bonuses, including the highest bonus of any state in 2012 and 2013 in recognition for its innovation and modernization of eligibility and enrollment systems by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Director Birch is also leading the implementation of federal and state health care reform, while working with stakeholders to integrate care across the continuum and transform the Department’s health care delivery systems.

Director Birch has been honored at both the state and federal level for her commitment to improving Coloradan’s access to care. Most recently Birch received the 2014 Dr. Nathan Davis Awards for Outstanding Government Service in the category Outstanding Career Public Servant at the State or Local Level from the American Medical Association (AMA).

Birch previously served as the Chief Executive Officer of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association in Steamboat Springs, Colorado where she was instrumental in expanding programs, developing strategic partnerships and strengthening operations. The agency moved into a nurse-led model of integrated community health services including primary care, home and hospice care, public health and aging services during her tenure.

Prior to moving to Northwest Colorado, Director Birch served at Georgetown University Hospital and in a variety of progressive nursing roles with Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. Director Birch has also completed appointments to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services and served as the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellow and the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow. Director Birch continues to play an influential role in nursing community as a Clinical Instructor for the University of Colorado, School of Nursing.

Birch earned a nursing degree and a Master’s degree in Business Administration, both from the University of Colorado.
 

John Bartholomew
Finance Office Director

John Bartholomew is the Finance Office Director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Bartholomew has been a member of the HCPF team for over 11 years. In the past few years, he has played an instrumental role in finding departmental budget savings and assisting the Governor’s budget office in submitting balanced budgets.

Prior to joining the Department, Bartholomew was the lead economist at the Business Research Division at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has served on the board of the Denver Association of Business Economists from 2000 to 2009 and completed a fellowship at the Colorado Health Foundation.

John has a Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

Carrie Cortiglio
Policy, Communications, and Administration Deputy Director

Carrie Cortiglio is the Deputy Director of the Policy, Communications and Administration Office at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. She oversees the Department’s legislative and policy agendas.

Prior to her current role, she was the Department’s legislative liaison. Before joining the Department, Cortiglio worked as a policy analyst for the Health District of Northern Larimer County. Her work there focused on all aspects of health care policy, including health care reform, and she led the Health District’s efforts to create a community-wide strategy to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. Prior to relocating to Colorado, Cortiglio worked for the Massachusetts legislature and for Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Cortiglio holds a Master's of Science from the Harvard School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College. She is a graduate of the 2010 Advanced Leadership Training Program Regional Institute of Health and Environmental Leadership (RIHEL).

 

Gretchen Hammer
Medicaid Director

Photo of Medicaid Director Gretchen Hammer

Gretchen Hammer is the Department’s Medicaid Director and oversees the Health Programs Office which administers Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) health program benefits, delivery systems and provider relations.

Before joining the Department, Hammer was Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved (CCMU). She served as past Chair and Member of the Connect for Health Colorado Board of Directors, served on the Colorado Children’s Healthcare Access Program (CCHAP) Board and HealthONE Board of Trustees. Prior to her work at CCMU Ms. Hammer was a private consultant focused on leadership development, complex systems change initiatives, strategic planning, program management and constituent engagement for numerous public serving organizations.

Ms. Hammer received a B.A. from Colorado College and a holds a Master's of Public Health from the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

 

Laurel Karabatsos
Health Programs Services and Support Division Director

Laurel Karabatsos is the Director of the Health Programs Services and Support Division. Her current initiatives include implementing Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC) delivery system reform to improve clients' health and reduce costs, and establishing a process for defining Medicaid benefit coverage policies using evidence-based care.

Previously she served as manager for the Quality Improvement Section at the Department, where she was responsible for Department Program Integrity functions, measuring health outcomes and client satisfaction across managed care and fee-for-service programs, conducting focus studies and quality interventions, and evaluating health plan performance and select utilization management activities.

Karabatsos holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and Women Studies from the University of Colorado.

 

Tom Massey
Policy, Communications, and Operations Office Director

Tom Massey is the Policy, Communications, and Operations Office Director at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. He is responsible for the management of government relations, internal and external communications, human resources, workforce development and facility operations.

Prior to coming to the Department, Massey served as a state legislator representing Colorado House District 60 (Poncha Springs, Salida) for eight years. He was a member of the Health and Environment Committee and chaired the House Education Committee. He sponsored several pieces of health care legislation, some of which included prescription drug monitoring, home health care, health information technology and electronic prescriptions in Medicaid. He also received numerous legislative honors, including awards from the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Leadership for Healthy Communities, Colorado Substance Abuse Peer Services, and the Colorado Home Health Care Network.

Massey has been a member of the Colorado Child Welfare Commission, served on the Health Information Exchange Board, the Health Information Technology Advisory Board and has been a Colorado Health Foundation Fellow. He served on the Board of Directors for the Children’s Health Foundation. He also owned and operated four Coldwell Banker franchises in central and southern Colorado.

Massey received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Texas.

 

Barbara Ramsey
Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Director

Barbara D. Ramsey is the Director of the Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities within the Office of Community Living. Ramsey has been the Director of the Division since 2013, overseeing the Division’s move from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing in April of 2014.

While at the Department of Human Services, Ramsey also served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Long Term Care and the Deputy Director of the-then Division for Developmental Disabilities, now the Division for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Before joining the Department of Human Services, Ramsey was a manager within the Long Term Services and Supports Division at the Colorado Department of Human Services and also managed the School Health Services Program for the Department.

Barbara received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Vocational Rehabilitation and Related Services from Montana State University, Billings, Montana and holds certificates in Leadership from the National Consortium on Leadership from the University of Delaware and fiscal management from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management within Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

 

Antoinette Taranto
Chief Client Officer and Deputy Office Director for the Client and Clinical Care Office

Antoinette Taranto is Chief Client Officer and Deputy Office Director for the Client and Clinical Care Office at the Department. She is a member of the Executive and Leadership Teams at the Department. Taranto has more than 17 years of experience in health policy and administration, 14 of which have been here at the Department.

Since joining the Department, Taranto has focused on systems operations enhancements and business process improvements in public health policy. Through Taranto’s efforts and leadership, several eligibility systems and processes have been streamlined and automated including automation of income, citizenship and identity verifications in 2011, online application in 2011 and the CBMS web expansion in 2012. Taranto’s Office was primarily responsible for the research, development and visioning that went into the Department’s Eligibility and Enrollment Implementation Advanced Planning Document, the State’s official request to draw down enhanced federal funding for overhaul of and enhancements to our eligibility determination systems. Federal approval of this document resulted in an over $62 million grant to implement Health Care Reform in Colorado. Taranto has been honored as a manager of the year and selected to speak at the 2012 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Eligibility and Enrollment Conference, On the Road to 2014.

Prior to her career with the Department, Taranto obtained payer and provider experience including customer service, provider recruitment and relations, hospital admissions, billing, office management, and patient scheduling.

Taranto is a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, its Society for Health Systems, and the American College of Health Care Executives. She has a Bachelor of Science in Health Policy and Administration from Pennsylvania State University, a Certificate of Graduate Studies for Database Administration from University of Denver and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt for Healthcare Certification.

 

Chris Underwood
Health Information Office Director

Chris Underwood serves as the Office Director of the Health Information Office for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. 

Underwood joined the Department in 2000 as a statistical analyst.  During his time with the Department, he has held the position of manager and division director over various areas.  At present, he is responsible for developing strategies for systems development and operations for client eligibility, health care claims processing, and health information technology on behalf of the Department.  In addition, he has oversight of the Department’s purchasing and contracting services.  Previously he had oversight of the Safety Net Programs Section, which included administering the Colorado Indigent Care Program, Old Age Pension Health and Medical Care Program, School Health Services Program, and numerous projects to maximize federal Medicaid revenue.  Other supervisory roles included oversight of Medicaid eligibility policy and operations, the calculation of managed care and hospital rates, external and internal audits to investigate waste and abuse in the Medicaid program, and analytical analysis and statistical reporting for the Department.  He represents the Department on the Hospital Provider Fee Oversight and Advisory Board and several task forces and boards related to ending homelessness and individuals involved in the criminal justice system.

Underwood holds a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of Colorado, where he also received his undergraduate degree in Economics.  Still maintaining his interest in economics, he served on the board of the Denver Association of Business Economics and served as president of the board from 2001-2004.

Judy Zerzan, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer and Client and Clinical Care Office Director

As Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Zerzan provides clinical guidance for medical and pharmacy benefits and directly oversees the Pharmacy and Quality & Health Improvement units. Dr. Zerzan has a role in the design and implementation of benefits design, Colorado’s Accountable Care Collaborative, quality and health outcome improvement, and cost-containment efforts. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver.

Dr. Zerzan received her MD degree from Oregon Health and Science University in 1998 and her MPH in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina in 1999. She completed the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Washington/Seattle VA in 2007. Dr. Zerzan was a 2008-2010 nonresidential Health and Aging Policy Fellow in the office of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia. During her fellowship, she worked on Medicaid, benefits for those dually-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and prescription drug policies. Dr. Zerzan currently serves as past-chair of the AHRQ sponsored Medicaid Medical Director’s Learning Network.

 

Jed Ziegenhagen
Director for the Office of Community Living  

Jed Ziegenhagen was named the Director for the Office of Community Living in October 2014.  This Office was created to help meet the growing need for Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS) by people living with disabilities and aging adults. In this role, Ziegenhagen is responsible for ensuring that the Department is able to execute the recommendations of the Community Living Advisory Group, established by Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order D 2012-027, as well as the goals of Colorado’s Community Living Plan.

To this end, Ziegenhagen is leading the Office to provide strategic direction on the redesign on the Medicaid aspects of the LTSS delivery system, including service models, payment structures and data systems to create efficient and person-centered community-based care. He is also continuing the collaboration of the Community Living Advisory group, integrating this work with non-government partners, with input from consumers and their families.

Ziegenhagen is well prepared for this work. By understanding both data and business models, he is a visionary who seeks to get to the root of the issues facing the Department and LTSS. Through his leadership, the Office of Community Living is transforming current processes to improve access to services and cost effectiveness.

Prior to his current role, Ziegenhagen was the Deputy Director for the Health Programs Office and Division Director for Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS). Before this, he served as the Director of Rates and Analysis; earlier, he served as the manager of both the Rates Section and the Data Section. Under Ziegenhagen’s management, the division successfully developed rate structures that created provider incentives that are more efficient and have reduced clinically unwarranted variation in utilization. Ziegenhagen served as a spokesperson for the Department on issues around data policy. He publicly championed changes to reimbursement methodologies that were designed to forward the Department’s mission to improve health care access and outcomes for the people we serve while demonstrating sound stewardship of financial resources.

He has been working for the Department for 16 years. Prior to working for the Department he was a staff member for a community centered board, providing hands on services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Ziegenhagen received his Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver and his BA in Economics with Honors from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.