Green Mountain Care Board chair Wallack announces resignation

Anya Rader Wallack, chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, announced on Wednesday that she is resigning less than two years into her seven-year term.

Wallack was a key architect of Act 48, the benchmark health care bill that established the Green Mountain Care Board and set the state on course to create a single-payer system. As chair of the board, Wallack’s primary task has been to control the growth of health care costs in Vermont.

Wallack is leaving the board in September to resume living with her family in Rhode Island.

“To do a job like this, and to be a good spouse and to be a good parent, is an incredible challenge,” she said. “And to do that with your family five hours away, and seeing them every two or three weeks, is more than a challenge — it’s just impossible.”

Wallack’s fellow board member Al Gobeille is set to replace the veteran health care policymaker. Gobeille, who has a brief background in health care policy, is a longtime restaurateur and is praised by his peers for his leadership abilities and skills with finances. He is Gov. Peter Shumlin’s top choice to replace Wallack.

“It’s great to have a business person, who has the respect of the business community leading the charge,” Shumlin said.

Con Hogan, who is a board member and former secretary of the Agency of Human Services, praised Gobeille.

“He is a natural leader. He is the kind of guy who, I think, can keep us moving in the right direction,” he said. “Some of the feedback from the press at this point is that he doesn’t have a policy background. Well the board does, and it’s a strong board.”

Wallack touted Gobeille’s strengths on a balance sheet.

“When we went through hospital budgets, he was my man,” she said. “He really understands finances.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Shumlin told reporters that Gobeille would only accept the chair position if he had someone with Wallack’s policy background to assist the board. The governor said his “preference would be that Anya be that person.”

Wallack said she currently plans to return to running her firm Arrowhead Health Analytics, LLC, which has consulted to the state of Vermont. While she would not commit to working with the board in the future, she hinted at it.

“It is really hard to walk away from this,” she said. “It feels like I’m putting up my baby for adoption. So, the idea that I’d walk away is a bit hard to fathom.”

Shumlin said he would lobby Wallack for the next six months to stay on board, even if from afar.

“I just want to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that we would not be where we are as the first state to implement the first sensible health care system in America if it were not for Anya’s extraordinary contributions, knowledge, skill and ability to get things done,” Shumlin said.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewcstein

Comments

  1. Lee Stirling :

    Reading this story makes me wonder what jobs in healthcare policy, administration, or State government have suddenly opened up in Rhode Island.

    • Tom Pelham :

      Hi Lee…I worked with Anya in the Dean Administration. She’s a Vermont native,a bright and dedicated public servant and a good person to the core. While I don’t agree with the mission she’s been on of late (it’s too big to succeed), there can be no doubt about the earnest application of her talents. I take her at her word that she leaves regretfully, and due to responsibilties at home.

  2. Walter Carpenter :

    “it’s too big to succeed),”

    While I question this “too big to succeed,” as other nations have done it, I also share your sentiments about Anya. I know her. She’s dedicated, brilliant at what she does, and she always does it with a sense of humor, and I know how she wanted to see this through. I will miss her. She has put her heart into this and I know how badly she feels about walking away before it is finished. I wish her good luck and am sad to see her go.

    • Craig Powers :

      Vermont is not a “nation”.

      • Mark Kevorkian :

        Ditto. (Why do we proponents of single payers constantly compare VT to, for example, Germany?)

        • Mark Kevorkian :

          Sorry–typo. Please take the “we” out of the above.

        • Walter Carpenter :

          Mark, because what is in France, Germany, Switzerland, etc. works much better than our costly health care debacle. And Craig, while you are eminently correct that Vt is not a nation, we can follow other nations like the above to lead the way for our nation:)

  3. Kathy Callaghan :

    Anya will be greatly missed. She is absolutely the best at what she does, and she does it with knowledge, skill, and style. Perhaps one of her most underappreciated talents is her unflappability and grace under pressure. I hope that her successor(s) can bring those same attributes. That said, I understand the 5 hour trek from Rhode Island to Vermont and back, as we make it fairly often ourselves.

    Best of everything, Anya, and don’t hesitate to come back at any time!

  4. Robert Rich :

    No doubt some lucrative private sector position opened up. At least she has the smarts to wait a while to announce it unlike some of the other Shumlin administration flunkies. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Anya.

  5. Chris Lewis :

    Wallack resigns 4 days before Shumlin administration decides to release rates. Coincidence?

  6. Avram Patt :

    Without wading into the health care reform debate itself, I think people posting comments questioning her motives for leaving might reread the article, especially the part where it says she’s not leaving until September.

  7. Bob Zeliff :

    What is see here it several people who oppose Vermont self insuring Vermonters to improve care for all and control costs via a single payer plans jumping with glee.

    Everyone has a right to their opinion, well informed or not!

    What i do find disturbing it the completely speculative and fairly offensive allegations that slur her motives. I do not see that as the Vermont way!

    • Chris Lewis :

      In my experience, when someone resigns from a position at a company and subsequently consults for the same company, they typically end up getting paid more for the same work. This is especially true if there isn’t a replacement lined up.

  8. Gia Biden :

    Thank you for all of your contributions to Vermont, Anya. They obviously came at a great personal sacrifice. You will always have my support and respect.

  9. Anya is a class act! The same can’t be said to some of the comments.

  10. It’s fair to say that Governor Shumlin’s health care initiative undoubtedly represents the largest and most complex task that Vermont state government has ever attempted. The economic stakes are extremely high with more than $6 billion in annual health care expenditures or about $10,000 for each man, woman and child living in Vermont. Beyond the economic costs, the real issue is the kind of health care Vermonters will experience once the program is launched and operating.

    Last month the GMCB announced that is was reeling in hospital costs, which I called code for medical rationing and gave the announced closing of the rehab unit at the Rutland hospital as an example of de facto forced rationing. I went on to say that medical rationing was not anything Governor Shumlin really seems to want to talk about. My comments on rationing drew the ire of many, which they generously shared with me and every other vtdigger reader, but still the rationing issue lingers.

    In an interview published on March 25th in the Rutland Herald, Ms. Radar Wallack cited various constraints she faces when dealing with issues such as prescription drug costs, hospital costs, challenges tied redesigning the health care system, competitive insurance rates and other factors as the GMCB struggles to reduce costs.

    In a news conference yesterday, Ms. Radar Wallack stated that if the health care initiative is to work under any scenario, health care costs must be brought under control.

    There is absolutely no doubt that capturing meaningful health care savings is a Herculean task that has eluded many over the years. At this point, there are many unanswered questions relating to how real cost savings are to be captured in Vermont, the impact of those cost cuts on the overall health care delivery system and on individual Vermonters.

    Ms. Radar Wallack’s impending departure presents a good opportunity for the Governor to restate the program’s primary goals, assess where the GMCB is today in achieving those goals and outline what needs to be done going forward to ultimately reach the program’s overall goals. This type of update should be done periodically and publicly and allow for the press and public to ask questions.

    Additionally, there is no need for the Governor to rush to appoint a new GMCB chairperson. He should take his time to find a new leader who has well established and demonstrated health care experience, financial skills and the leadership qualities necessary to guide the GMCB toward accomplishing it goals.

    The legislature and media should call on the Governor keep the public informed. This matter is too important for anything less..

  11. Anya Radar Wallack is leaving her position as GMCB Chair.

    Gov. Shumlin indicates that he will appoint Al Gobeille as her replacement. So what are Mr. Gobeille qualifications: he operates three restaurants and served on the board of directors for the Visiting Nurses Association.

    My comments are not directed at Mr. Gobeille, successfully operating restaurants is a difficult job and his fellow GMCB members seem to like him. But, how in the world is he qualified to take on an additional full time job beyond running his restaurants when he totally lacks any meaningful health care back ground experience?

    Again, this isn’t about Mr. Gobeille, its about Gov. Shumlin’s: READY, FIRE, AIM management style. If the Governor had stopped for only a moment and considered the skills really needed to run the largest and most complex undertaking in Vermont history, it is doubtful that he would have moved so quickly to select Mr. Gobeille.

    Will we be getting another commentary from Jeb Spaulding saying that this is just a big misunderstanding?

  12. This whole situation is pathetic. What a freak show. Lets continue to throw good money after bad.

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