Deidre Gifford and Andrea Barton Reeves Credit: Hugh McQuaid photo

Gov. Ned Lamont is shuffling the deck a little more as he heads into his second term announcing today that Andrea Barton Reeves would take over the role of Department of Social Services Commissioner and Deidre Giffords, who held the position for the past four years, will move over to the Office of Health Strategy. 

Barton Reeves currently heads the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority and has been in public service in Connecticut for the past 22 years, most recently as president and CEO of Harc Inc, a large nonprofit organization in Hartford that provides services for people with intellectual and related disabilities and families.

Gifford who took on the added responsibility as commissioner of Public Health during the pandemic will continue to act as senior advisor to the governor for health and human services.

Lamont said the changes are focused on a “well-coordinated, comprehensive approach to public health and healthcare access.” 

“It’s our job to get everyone aligned around this vision of affordability, quality health care,” Gifford said. “And then start digging in around the strategies for implementation.” 

Health insurance premiums are rising far faster than household incomes in Connecticut. Between 2008 and last year, Connecticut’s median household incomes averaged 1.9% increases annually, while single and family plan premiums in our state averaged 3.8% and 4.6% hikes annually, respectively.

Lawmakers passed legislation that requires the Office of Health Strategy to benchmark total healthcare expenditures growth and healthcare quality, and to set primary care spending targets for all populations in the state. However, there’s questions about how much that will actually impact the cost of care. 

“We’re hitting the cost of health care head on,” Lamont said. “While also emphasizing quality and affordability. 

Lamont said this reorganization of these two female leaders in his second term is a way to get to affordable, quality health care more effectively. 

Earlier this year, the state Insurance Department approved an average 12.9% increase in health care premiums for all fully-insured plans in the individual marketplace for 2023. 

The decision caused outrage from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the public and moved affordable health care up in Lamont’s agenda this year. 

As head of DSS, Barton Reeves will have oversight of a number of programs, including Medicaid and the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. She will also oversee about 1,700 state employees who work for the agency.  

DSS serves about 1 million residents of all ages in all 169 cities and towns, supporting the basic needs of children, families and individuals, including older adults and persons with disabilities.

The Office of Health Strategy is a fairly new office created by former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, which is responsible for implementing comprehensive, data driven strategies that promote equal access to high quality health care, control costs and ensure better health for the people of Connecticut. 

The board of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority will be responsible for finding a replacement for Barton Reeves and the legislature will have to confirm her to the position as DSS Commissioner.