Vt. governor-elect names his health care team

By Dave Gram
Associated Press / December 14, 2010

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MONTPELIER — Governor-elect Peter Shumlin yesterday announced his appointments to a team he hopes will lead Vermont to become the first state with a single-payer health care system.

The Democrat had made that goal the centerpiece of his campaign even under criticism that it would be difficult to achieve given limits placed on states under President Obama’s signature health care legislation passed by Congress earlier this year.

Shumlin said his goal is to “provide [health care] access to all Vermonters, contain costs, and hopefully design a system where health care follows the individual and is not an obligation of the employer — where health care is a right and not a privilege.’’

He acknowledged that he might not succeed and listed one of his challenges as the need for special federal permissions, or waivers, to accomplish the state plan.

“This is a complex undertaking,’’ Shumlin said. “It will require careful planning at the state level and pushing the limits of laws and regulations at the federal level.’’

Shumlin said his senior health care team will include:

■ Anya Rader Wallack, who will serve as special assistant to the governor for health care and earn about $125,000. She will coordinate the overhaul efforts of the various state agencies and departments involved.

She worked in health policy for former governor Howard Dean and held senior health policy and management jobs in Massachusetts since then.

■ Stephen Kimbell, a lawyer and longtime Montpelier lobbyist whose clients included health care companies before he retired earlier this year.

He will earn $127,000 as commissioner of the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration.

■ Dr. Harry Chen, an emergency room physician at the Rutland Regional Medical Center and former member of the Vermont House of Representatives, will serve as commissioner of the state Health Care Department.

Chen’s salary will be $115,000.

■ Susan Besio will stay in the job she has held under the administration of outgoing Governor Jim Douglas — commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, which administers Medicaid and other publicly subsidized health insurance programs.

Her salary will remain at just less than $101,000.