Will Shumlin appoint a staffer to run the Green Mountain Care board?

by Rob Roper 

Rep. Vicki Strong

Ever since Peter Shumlin described his plan for a single payer healthcare system run by an elite board of five, Vermonters have been wondering who will get picked to join the “Jedi Counsel” (or the “Politburo” depending upon your perspective). Shumlin has often repeated his intention to find “really smart people,” the best people in the world, to run this system and make it a success where all other attempts have admittedly failed.

However, there is a good chance that this grand, world-wide search for the best possible talent will never get beyond the governor’s offices on the Fifth Floor of the Pavillion building, at least as far as the chairmanship goes. Anya Rader Wallack, special assistant to the governor on healthcare, has applied for the job. The question is, will Shumlin have the chutzpah to appoint his own staff person to a position that Wallack herself once described as something that should be, “independent, apolitical, but allows people to see what’s going on in the process.” . http://www.wcax.com/story/13955187/ycqm-anya-rader-wallack-jan-23-2011?redirected=true

Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany) sat on the Green Mountain Care nominating committee. She described Wallack as, “Very qualified and very knowledgeable, but in my mind, what is that saying?… Already there is skepticism of these five people who are going to change healthcare for our state. What is this saying about our state? Is this just all politics? We need a credible board to have [Green Mountain Care] be believable.”

Indeed, it seems a stretch to believe Wallack could be a voice independent from the governor, divorced from his political agenda. The relationship that exists between the governor and an aide belies transparency.

Strong confirmed that Wallack was one of the twenty-two applicants forwarded by the Nomination Committee to the governor for consideration. “Yes, she was. And it was pretty much taken for granted that that would be the case.” Strong hoped there would have been more of an objection raised by the committee (the nine members of which were chosen by the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President Pro Tem). “Senator [Claire] Ayre (D-Addison) did also echo my concern about Anya, but otherwise everyone else was fine with it and thought it was great.”

The deadlines the Nomination Committee also call into question how serious the search was. “It was a short window of opportunity for anyone who wanted to apply,” said Strong. “From the time we advertised to the deadline for applications was just about three weeks.” The national search did not attract many people from out of state.

Strong described going through the 120 or so resumes as like speed dating. “You read these resumes, look at the gist of what they’re saying. They’re quite intensive resumes, so it was a long process for them to apply. But, we went through it ‘speed dating.'” Interviews with applicants only lasted 30 to 40 minutes for a job reforming and managing a $5 billion plus healthcare system. “So, I felt it was rather fast. Maybe somewhat inappropriately so to really get the top people we would like to see on this life changing healthcare reform board.”

Asked why she thought the process was so rushed, Strong said, “To tell you the truth, I think it was because the governor wanted these names in by the first week in August so he could start his process of interviewing and make his picks. I believe he’s going on vacation, and he wanted to have these names in by the time he was leaving.”

Another possibility is that Shumlin always intended for Wallack to run the board, and the other four members have already been determined. All this other stuff is a theatrical formality.