HARTFORD, CT — It took five months, but Gov. Ned Lamont has finally settled on a new commissioner for the Department of Social Services.
On Friday, Lamont named Dr. Deidre Gifford to the position.
Gifford recently served as deputy director for the Children’s Health Insurance Program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
“The Department of Social Services provides an incredibly important function to the people of our state, and it is time to accelerate the pace of innovation and change in the agency,” Lamont said. “I want to refocus our energy to improve the delivery of these services utilizing innovative tools that increase the value and outcomes for consumers while also producing cost-saving efficiencies for the agency. This is exactly what drew my attention to Dr. Gifford — she has many years of experience doing exactly this both on the state and federal level. I am excited that she has agreed to come to Connecticut and help reform these efforts here — her input is going to be a big benefit as we move forward in these streamlining endeavors.”
Lamont’s decision to name Gifford to the position shows the focus his administration will have on Connecticut’s Medicaid system, which currently serves an estimated 800,000 residents.
Gifford will replace Roderick Bremby, who has served as commissioner the past eight years. Gifford is expected to start June 21, which means the legislature won’t have an opportunity to confirm her appointment until the start of session next year.
“I am grateful to Governor Lamont for the opportunity to serve the people of Connecticut in this important role,” Dr. Gifford said. “If confirmed, I look forward to working with the Governor and Lt. Governor, and collaborating with my fellow commissioners to improve the lives and health of the women, men, children, and families served by DSS. It is becoming clear that improving the health of our communities requires an approach that looks beyond the traditional silos of social services. Under Governor Lamont’s leadership, Connecticut has a unique opportunity to enhance the coordination and efficiency of government services in truly innovative ways that will make a real difference.”
Prior to joining CMS, Gifford served as the director of State Policy and Programs at the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), where she led that organization’s efforts with states to support and advance value-based purchasing in Medicaid.
Before that she served as Medicaid director for the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services. While in that position she was also the co-founder and project director of Rhode Island’s multi-payer Medical Home Demonstration, one of nation’s first and most enduring multi-payer reform initiatives.
In Rhode Island she was credited with reinventing Medicaid initiatives that involve the way the state pays for doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes for the care they provide.
Seven years ago Connecticut switched — from a capitated payment model using private insurers — to a care coordination-focused, self-insured payment model. Since then, state spending on Medicaid has decreased, saving hundreds of millions of tax dollars annually and leading the nation in cost control.
But advocates warn that system is still politically fragile and they have been resisting attempts to give back more control to private insurance companies.
It’s unclear what initiatives Gifford might embrace when it comes to payment reforms, but Medicaid savings is something Lamont talked about on the campaign trail.
Gifford received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Los Angeles; a Medical Doctorate degree from Cornell University Medical College in New York; and completed a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and received an M.P.H. in epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Gifford will be paid $205,000 a year.