Miller to leave Commerce to head Shumlin’s health care reform

April 10, 2014

Vermont Digger

Lawrence Miller’s job of fronting the state’s health care reform effort will not end anytime soon.

Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday tabbed Miller, Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, to become his senior adviser and chief of health care reform.

Replacing Miller at ACCD will be Patricia Moulton, who previously held key positions in the administrations of Shumlin and former Gov. Jim Douglas. The changes will become effective around June 1, Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding said at a news conference in Montpelier. Shumlin was unable to attend the event due to a family emergency.

Miller will be paid from money budgeted for vacant positions in the governor’s office or the Agency of Administration, Spaulding said.

Miller was reassigned by the governor in January to help the Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) grapple with the technological and political impact of the state’s faulty health care exchange website.

Miller is credited with helping to negotiate a new contract with CGI, the vendor hired to develop Vermont Health Connect. The new contract set dates for the completion of certain website functions and established penalties if CGI failed to deliver on its promises.

As the governor’s chief of health care reform, Miller will oversee the state effort to move to a publicly financed health care system by 2017. He will work with the administration and the Agency of Human Services to build out Green Mountain Care, Spaulding said.

“We need to have a quarterback to make sure all of us who have a role in this are supported and coordinated,” Spaulding said. “And by getting us to Green Mountain Care, that we have a very strong economic story to tell to our current businesses and future businesses, in and out of state.”

Miller, an entrepreneur who founded Otter Creek Brewing, joined the Shumlin administration in 2011, after serving as CEO of Danforth Pewter. He said providing universal access to health care and controlling the cost of providing it are vital to a successful economy.

“I look at the effort to move to Green Mountain Care as having a myriad of dependencies,” Miller said. “As you know, we’ve got to get cost containment right … I think the early indications on Blueprint, the efforts of the Green Mountain Care Board, so far, and the establishment of the ACOs demonstrate that we’re moving forward on that front. Now we really need to dig in on some of the operating principles so that it can be properly priced and we can go forward with a financing plan.”

Vermont’s Blueprint for Health is a state program to promote sustainable health care delivery. Accountable Care Organizations tie provider compensation to quality care standards.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, which opposes the governor’s health care reform efforts, criticized the changes.

“Governor Shumlin continues to throw people and resources at his failed attempt to create a theoretical health care system,” director Darcie Johnston said in a statement. “The fantasy will continue until Governor Shumlin comes clean with Vermonters and follows the law by telling us the truth about his health care fantasy, how much it will cost and how we will pay for it.”
From left, incoming Secretary of Commerce and Community Development Patricia Moulton, Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding and new chief of health care reform Lawrence Miller. Photo by Tom Brown/VTDigger