Al Gobeille succeeds Anya Rader Wallack as head of health care board

August 01, 2013

VTDigger

Posted By Andrew Stein On August 1, 2013

Prominent Burlington restaurateur Al Gobeille took over as chair of Vermont’s Green Mountain Care Board on Thursday.

With his rise to the board’s top seat comes the exit of Anya Rader Wallack — a central architect of the bill that created the board and its first chair. The board’s mission is to control the growing cost of health care in Vermont, and Wallack stepped down from the post almost two years into her seven-year term to resume living with her family in Rhode Island.

Wallack, a nationally renowned policymaker and regulator, will continue to work part-time with the state on its efforts to implement a $45 million “State Innovation Model” grant from the federal government. She is ironing out a contract with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s office and will oversee the health care grant’s governance. The grant pays for a range of new positions and consultants aimed at helping Vermont better manage health care services, shift payment models from fee-for-service to being based on quality-of-care, and improving information technology systems across providers.

“We’re not going to find anybody to replace Anya,” board member Allen Ramsay said. But, he said, Gobeille is as good a successor as the board could hope for.

“His background is in business, and that’s fine,” Ramsay said. “Al has proven to me that he cares more about our mission of really improving care and making it accessible to everyone. He cares about the underserved.”
Gobeille, who was already on the board, takes over as it begins the arduous process of scrutinizing the budgets of Vermont’s 14 community hospitals [3]. This process will last through the end of September.

When Wallack announced in March that she would resign [4], Shumlin told reporters that Gobeille was his top choice to fill the seat. Thursday, Shumlin rearticulated his confidence in Gobeille.

“As a business owner, Al understands that health care costs are not sustainable, and are crippling Vermont employers, Vermont families and Vermont’s economy,” Shumlin said in a public statement. “His organizational leadership skills and practical business experience make him an ideal chair for the Board. Al also has an uncanny ability to translate complex health care jargon into clear, understandable explanations for the public.”

Shumlin plans to appoint a new board member later this month. Vermont governors have the power to choose board members, but they do not have direct regulatory authority over the five-member board.

Gobeille owns Gobeille Hospitality, a restaurant group that includes Shanty on the Shore, Burlington Bay Market and Café, Breakwater Café and Grill and Northern Lights Cruises.

Although Gobeille’s background in health care policy is brief, Wallack said he is the best person to fill her shoes.

“I think he’ll be awesome,” she said. “He has been an unbelievable colleague and support to me, and he has been an incredibly quick study in Vermont health policy.”

Asked how the transition was going, the congenial Gobeille chided, “Just working on normal stuff. Not much happening here.”

Then, he got serious.

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “I can guarantee it.”