A Dartmouth College professor is expected to join one of the most powerful boards in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott’s office announced Friday.
Thomas Walsh, a former physical therapist and health reform expert, would be the only member of the Green Mountain Care Board with direct medical provider experience if he’s confirmed by the state Senate. He would replace Maureen Usifer, whose six-year term ended in September.
The Green Mountain Care Board regulates hospital growth, sets health insurance rates and is part of the state’s health care reform effort, the all-payer model.
“Dr. Walsh is an experienced professional who will bring an important perspective to the Green Mountain Care Board,” Scott said in Friday’s announcement. “His background both in health policy and delivering health care will serve him well in his new role.”
Walsh holds a variety of teaching and health policy positions. He is a physical therapist who worked at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, according to the press release. He last practiced in February 2020 in New York State, he told VTDigger.
The care board is at the center of issues that affect the quality and cost of care, and the lack of appointees with direct patient care experience has surfaced as a concern. Last year, the Vermont House tabled a bill that would require at least one seat to be held by a health professional.
Jessa Barnard, the Vermont Medical Society’s executive director, said the care board would benefit from a practicing clinician’s input.
“Whether that's a physician, a nurse or other kind of health care professional, we do think that perspective is very important,” she said.
In a message to members, Barnard said the medical society has advocated putting a practicing Vermont clinician on the board.
The governor's press secretary, Jason Maulucci, said Friday that Scott considers input from professional societies in his decisions.
“At the end of the day, the governor has to appoint from the list that is presented to him the person who he believes will be the best fit on the board,” Maulucci said.
Lobbyists from the medical society will campaign this January to have a permanent Green Mountain Care Board staff position dedicated to primary care.
Though they do not vote on initiatives, staff members are an influential part of the board’s work. They offer analysis and data that informs the board’s decisions.
Walsh is a health systems expert at the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare. He previously worked with the Veterans Health Administration, according to a press release from Scott’s office.
The governor's office has final authority over appointments to the Green Mountain Care Board, but a committee that does not include care board members or staff members vets applicants to compile a short list.
Current board members are Jessica Holmes, an economics professor at Middlebury College; former state legislator Kevin Mullin; and former public servants Robin Lunge and Tom Pelham.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story noted that Walsh’s New Hampshire physical therapy license lapsed in 2006. His Vermont license, however, remains active, he later told VTDigger.
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