CTNewsJunkie file photo
State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

Connecticut Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri resigned Friday and will be starting a new job next week in Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman’s office where she will coordinate “statewide healthcare initiatives.”

Veltri has been the state’s Healthcare Advocate for the past five years and has worked in the office for 10 years. She’s only the second person to serve in that capacity. State Comptroller Kevin Lembo was the first.

The Office of the Healthcare Advocate is an independent agency that helps consumers when they have disputes with their health insurance company. They also educate people about their health care rights and serve as a watchdog over Connecticut’s healthcare marketplace. Veltri also served as the vice chair of Access Health CT’s board of directors, which administers the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplace.

According to a January press release, Veltri’s office saved consumers $10.97 million dollars in 2015. That $10.97 million represents the costs of healthcare services, procedures, claims, and coverage that would have been borne directly by consumers had the agency not intervened.

As the state’s Healthcare Advocate, Veltri oversaw a staff of 28 people who worked on behalf of insurance consumers. Veltri and her staff are paid through an Insurance Department fund, monies for which are provided through assessments on insurance companies.

Veltri will receive a $25,000 increase by making the move to Wyman’s office where her new salary will be $150,000, also to be paid through the Insurance Department fund.

“Vicki is an expert on healthcare and the state’s efforts to improve healthcare access and delivery — a priority for us,” Wyman said. “As Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate, she has been a valuable resource serving residents; we are so pleased to have her on board.”

In her new position Veltri will coordinate statewide healthcare initiatives.

In her resignation letter, Veltri said she enjoyed her time as Healthcare Advocate.

“In the last five years, the team at OHA helped thousands of individuals navigate the healthcare system and save consumers tens of millions of dollars,” Veltri wrote. “The team advocated for hundreds of pieces of legislation to protect healthcare consumers and grew the national stature of the office as a leading consumer assistance program under the Affordable Care Act and a leading voice on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.”

According to state statute, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has to advise the six-member Healthcare Advocate’s advisory committee that the position is vacant. The advisory committee then has to meet to interview applicants and submit a list of five candidates, ranked in order of preference, to the governor. The governor then has 60 days to choose one.

In the meantime, the most senior attorney in the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, Demain Fontanella, shall serve as the acting Healthcare Advocate until the vacancy is filled.

Steve Karp, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers and who also is a member of the advisory committee, said he’s sad to see Veltri leave the position.

“She did a fabulous job of representing consumers and expanding the responsibilities of the office,” Karp said. “She made sure private insurers were paying what they should be paying.”

He said he’s glad to know Veltri will continue to work in Connecticut on healthcare.

“Honestly, I don’t know how she did it. She had a lot on her plate,” Karp said.

Keith Stover, a lobbyist for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, said the plans enjoyed working with Veltri.

“We have a good working relationship with the office,” Stover said. “We look forward to working with whoever is appointed.”