Advocates have been complaining for months about three appointments to the state’s Insurance Exchange Board of Directors. Their complaints have fallen mostly on deaf ears, but now they’re hoping the Office of State Ethics will take up the matter.
A group called Citizens for Economic Opportunity, or C.E.O., requested an inquiry into the make-up of Connecticut’s Health Exchange Board of Directors Tuesday.
“We believe that several of the appointments are in direct violation to Public Act 11-53, which created the exchange,” the group wrote in its letter to Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics. “The legislature clearly intended to create a board that was designed to protect consumers, not benefit insurance companies.“
But Carson said she can’t confirm or deny the existence of any inquiry into the matter.
According to the Code of State Ethics, C.E.O. should not have even mentioned that they asked for an investigation.
“Any complaint alleging a violation of the Codes of Ethics must remain confidential except after a finding of probable cause, at the request of the respondent or upon an agreed resolution of the matter by consent order,“ the Office of State Ethics’ website says. “While the investigation is confidential, no one – the complainant, respondent, witness, designated party, OSE Board member, OSE staff member – may disclose that a complaint has been filed, or any information related to the investigation of the complaint.”
It’s also unclear if the Code of State Ethics would apply to appointees, especially since little action has been taken by the board, which is still in the beginning phase of creating the quasi-public agency to oversee Connecticut‘s health insurance exchange. Generally speaking, the Code of Ethics would apply to public officials if they or their immediate family benefited financially from action taken by the board.
According to the letter C.E.O is calling into question the appointments of Mickey Herbert, Robert Scalettar, and Mary Fox, all former insurance executives. Herbert was appointed by Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, Scalettar was appointed by Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney, and Fox was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the board.
Fox was on Hartford Hospital’s board and is a former Aetna executive; Herbert is the retired president and CEO of ConnectiCare, an insurance company that serves more than 240,000 individuals in Connecticut and Massachusetts; and Scalettar, is a pediatrician who recently worked for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield as its corporate medical director.
“For years insurance companies have enjoyed healthy profits and excessive CEO pay at the same time they were denying consumers life sustaining health care,“ Karen Schuessler, director of Citizens for Economic Opportunity, said. “The exchanges, which are required by the Affordable Care Act, are designed to correct this problem and meet the needs of consumers and small businesses by providing quality, affordable health care.”
Schuessler said Fox was recommended to Malloy by Keith Stover, the lobbyist for the state’s insurance companies. She said Stover wrote a letter to Malloy’s Chief of Staff Tim Bannon recommending both Fox and Carol Ann Smith, formerly of United Healthcare Group, as possible appointments.
Stover said the attacks on the board’s membership “is fundamentally offensive.” He said these are individuals with a range of talents. He said if people want to quibble with their political positions fine, but questioning their ability to set up an exchange is offensive and “shows a lack of willingness to focus on the task at hand.”
He said these health care advocates have been advocating for such an exchange then a mile from the finish line are having a panic attack. He questioned why they would delay reaching their goal, to help give everyone access to health insurance, shortly before it becomes a reality.
As for Fox, Stover said she has decades long experience running insurance companies, and that experience is invaluable to the creation of an exchange.
“Mary Fox is a knowledgeable individual, who has an understanding of the health care industry that will benefit the Exchange Board in its work,” Colleen Flanagan, Malloy’s spokeswoman, said. “The letter submitted to the Office of State Ethics fails to identify anything that would make her ineligible to serve.”
Asked about the board’s make-up and his appointment of Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Fox in the past, Malloy has said Wyman is the consumer advocate on the board.
Schuessler said she would like to see more consumers on the 11-member board, which includes three ex-officio members like the State Health Care Advocate Victoria Veltri who can’t vote, but can participate in the meetings.
She said the appointments fly in the face of the legislation‘s intent.
“No appointee shall be employed by, a consultant to, a member of the board of directors of, affiliated with or otherwise a representative of an insurer, an insurance producer or broker, a health care provider, or a health care facility or health or medical clinic while serving on the board,” the legislation says.
This is not the first time advocates have complained about the make-up of the board. Last month they protested the board meeting by placing Band-Aids over their mouths and standing up to block the Power Point presentation.
The Insurance Exchange Board will meet 9 a.m. Thursday at the Legislative Office Building.
Click here for the agenda.