(Updated 1:11 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended at least one of his appointments to the Health Insurance Exchange Board Friday after a state Bond Commission meeting.
The makeup of the board includes several former insurance executives and politically connected individuals appointed by legislative leaders and Malloy. Consumer health care advocates criticized the composition of the board earlier this week when the names were released.
“Listen I appointed an outstanding consumer advocate. Her name is Nancy Wyman. And I’m very proud of my two appointments and with respect to the other appointments you should take them up with the people who made those appointments,” Malloy said.
Wyman is the state’s lieutenant governor, former state comptroller, and X-Ray technician.
Malloy’s second appointment to the 14 member board was Mary Fox, a senior vice president of Aetna Product Group who retired Dec. 31, 2009.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney appointed Mickey Herbert, the retired president and CEO of ConnectiCare, an insurance company that serves more than 240,000 individuals in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Consumer advocates say Herbert went down to Washington D.C. to lobby against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act when it was debated in 2010.
In a phone interview Friday McKinney said Herbert has extensive knowledge of the health care system and believes he will contribute to the board even if he didn’t believe in the federal legislation.
“I didn’t support the SustiNet plan, and if I were a member of Congress I would not have supported Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take seriously the creation of this insurance exchange,” McKinney said.
McKinney said the consumer advocates should focus their attention on getting bills like the one that mandates public hearings for rate increases, passed. Malloy vetoed the bill much to the dismay of consumer advocates, but McKinney said he thinks that would have gone far in protecting consumers and saving costs.
Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, appointed Michael Devine, CEO of Earth Energy Alliance, a company dedicated to reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil, according to its website. It’s unclear if he has any sort or background in health insurance.
House Speaker Chris Donovan appointed Dr. Robert Tessier, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition of Taft-Hartley Funds, a nonprofit organization representing labor management negotiated health funds.
House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey appointed Dr. Grant Ritter, Rep. Betsy Ritter’s husband, who is a senior scientist at Brandeis University and is interested in the use of quantitative methods in health services research.
Democratic House leaders were not available for comment. But a spokesman for the Senate Democratic leaders said its appointees are more than qualified for the task.
“Both appointees are very qualified in the category under which they were chosen. Ms. [Cecilia] Woods is an expert in health care finance and Medicaid, and Dr. [Robert] Scalettar has expertise in health care delivery systems, in fact he was even recommended by health care advocates such as the Connecticut Health Care Foundation,” Derek Slap, spokesman for Sen. President Donald Williams and Majority Leader Martin Looney, said. “There are additional appointees made to the board who are charged with representing small businesses, individuals, and the self-employed.”
Williams appointed Woods, a former chief of staff for the Senate Democratic office, and Looney appointed Scalettar, a former Anthem executive and husband of Ellen Scalettar, a Senate Democratic staffer.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, said the appointments of these 14 individuals violates the spirit of the federal law.
“At a time when small businesses and individuals across the state are struggling to find and afford quality health insurance, the Exchange created under federal health care reform offered hope,” Andrews said. “Yet there are no consumer advocates on the board, and the offers by advocates to participate were rebuffed.”
“Which members does the administration consider to be consumer advocates? And how can former top executives of insurance companies not be considered affiliated with those insurers?,” Andrews wondered.
Malloy believes it’s Wyman.
Andrews said she has nothing but the highest regard for Wyman, but she’s an administrative appointee who represents more than just consumers, she represents taxpayers and she represents Malloy. Andrews continues to argue the board should be made up of a majority of consumers and while she doesn’t doubt Wyman’s intention to represent consumers, she’s not a majority of the board.
“The board will have an unprecedented voice in deciding what benefits will be covered, which insurance plans will be offered, what standards those plans must reach and how much can be charged,“ Andrews said. “How can the one-in-ten Connecticut residents who are expected to buy health insurance through the exchange have confidence in decisions made by a board dominated by insurance interests, with little to no input from consumer or small business advocates?”