Ted Doolittle (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

Ted Doolittle, who has served as Connecticut’s Healthcare Advocate for nearly seven years, announced his pending departure from the Office of the Healthcare Advocate (OHA). Doolittle will step down to become a federal Immigration judge in Hartford next month.

During his tenure, Doolittle led a team of nurses, attorneys, paralegals, and consumer information representatives, advocating for tens of thousands of Connecticut families facing health insurance issues. The office has saved families millions of dollars by helping them navigate health insurance denials and disputes.

Achievements and Milestones

Under Doolittle’s leadership, OHA implemented legislation requiring Connecticut health carriers to place a plain-language notification on the front page of all health insurance denials. This initiative, effective January 1, 2023, led to an uptick in case referrals, especially for complex medical denials.

Doolittle also focused on enhancing staff-management relations within OHA and guided the agency towards a high-quality, high-volume legal services model by adding paralegals to the staffing mix.

Warning on Eroding ACA Protections

One of Doolittle’s departing messages concerns the rise of “level-funded plans,” which he warns are quickly replacing traditional fully-insured plans for small businesses in the state. These new plans evade the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) pre-existing conditions protections, posing serious risks to consumers.

“In short, the insurance industry’s new level-funded plans amount to a de facto repeal of the ACA’s pre-existing conditions protections for small business owners and the families who work for them,” Doolittle stated. “State policymakers in Connecticut and around the country need to wake up and grapple with this nasty reality.”

What’s Next for OHA?

Pursuant to statute, OHA General Counsel Sean King will become the acting Healthcare Advocate starting September 1, 2023. An advisory committee will conduct a job search and send a ranked list of up to five candidates to the governor for selection.

A New Chapter for Doolittle

As for Doolittle, his next chapter will be as a federal Immigration judge, fulfilling a long-held aspiration to return to the courtroom. “While healthcare law is different from immigration law, the through line between Immigration Judge and Healthcare Advocate is that both positions provide the opportunity (and responsibility) to strive toward ensuring that families living in Connecticut who are facing daunting, high-stakes, life-changing administrative and bureaucratic challenges get the fair shake they deserve,” he said.

Doolittle expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve as Healthcare Advocate and remains optimistic about the agency’s future. “I look forward to what’s next for the agency,” he concluded.

This pivotal change comes at a critical time, as the state and nation grapple with the challenges of healthcare reform, access, and costs. Doolittle leaves behind a legacy of effective advocacy, but also warns that work remains, particularly in protecting vulnerable populations from industry practices that could leave them without essential health coverage.