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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Insurance board member avoids conflict of interest

By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff

Bruce Butler, a member of the board overseeing the state's universal health insurance law, has threaded his way through a conflict of interest by giving up some paid work.

"I will stay on the board, fully engaged," he said in an interview after a meeting of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector board.

Former Governor Mitt Romney appointed Butler last year to fill the seat designated for an actuary on the 10-member volunteer board.

Butler had worked for many years as chief actuary at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. After retiring, Butler started a consulting business and recently helped a local firm develop web-based products for insurance companies.

As part of the consulting job he expected to be meeting directly with Massachusetts insurers to solicit business. Some of those same insurers are seeking approval from the Connector board to sell new insurance plans.

Last month, he told the board and Romney that he did not believe his consulting work posed a conflict of interest, but that he would abstain from discussions and votes involving specific insurers to avoid the appearance of any conflict.

But the Ethics Commission told Butler that abstaining from board business was not enough to prevent a conflict of interest. That left Butler with a choice: resign from the board or limit his paid consulting efforts.

Today, Butler told fellow board members that he would not market products to any insurers who are submitting bids to the connector. Therefore, he said, he had the Ethics Commission's blessing to participate in all board activities.

Butler said he still planned to help market the web-based products to insurers in other states who do not have business with the connector.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 05:57 PM
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