Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Access Health CT CEO James Michel (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, known as Access Health CT, has been operating without a chief executive officer for most of the summer and it’s short at least one board member. At least one of those positions was filled last week, while another remains vacant.

Last week, the Access Health CT Board of Directors promoted James Michel, its chief finance officer, to CEO at a meeting on Thursday.

One of the first things Michel did as CEO was tell Jennifer Lovett, who was appointed to the board by House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, that she would be unable to serve on the board because she’s an insurance broker.

Lovett, who runs a brokerage firm in South Windsor, was told her experience and training with signing people up for health insurance violated the organization’s bylaws.

“No board member shall be employed by, a consultant to, a member of the board of directors of, affiliated with or otherwise a representative of (i) an insurer, (ii) an insurance producer or broker, (iii) a health care provider, or (iv) a health care facility or health or medical clinic while serving on the board of the exchange,” the bylaws state.

Lovett, as an insurance broker, is paid commissions by the insurance carriers who offer their products on the exchange, not by Access Health CT.

She thinks it’s ridiculous to bar someone with her experience from sitting on the board.

“These guys have no idea what to ask,” Lovett said of the Access Health CT board.

Lovett, who is also running as a Republican for the state Senate, said she struggles with the idea that those who created the exchange actually didn’t want to have anyone on the board who knew how things actually worked.

None of the board members on the exchange purchase their health insurance through the portal.

“If they were forced to use the same system things would change,” Lovett said.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides was the one who appointed Lovett. As minority leader of the House Klarides is required to appoint someone to the board “who shall have expertise concerning barriers to individual health care coverage.”

Klarides said Friday that she is looking to find someone else to appoint.

Lovett said she doesn’t plan to hire an attorney to fight the decision. However, she thinks it’s hypocritical of the board to ignore its own rules when it comes to the appointment of a CEO.

Like Lovett, Michel also has a broker license.

A spokeswoman for Access Health CT said Michel earned his license as a broker for “educational purposes only when he worked for a former employer.”

“He has never worked as a broker or earned any income as a broker, nor does he have any affiliation with a broker or producer,” Kathleen Tallarita, a spokeswoman for Access Health CT, said. “Connecticut state statute allows for employees of Access Health CT to possess a broker’s license, but does not allow them to be employed as a broker or producer. “

Michel replaces James Wadleigh who stepped down as the second CEO of the exchange in April.

Michel has been with Access Health CT since 2013. Prior to that he was an audit director in Aetna’s finance department and before that he was chief financial officer for the Metropolitan District Commission in Hartford.