"Jon is one of the most creative and innovative health care leaders in the nation," Patrick said in a statement. "He has been a tremendous asset in our efforts to expand health care coverage to all Massachusetts residents."
Kingsdale, 61, said in an interview that he has not yet decided on his next step, but he is interested in working on implementation of the national health care overhaul that was in large measure modeled on the Massachusetts law. He said he had spoken with the Obama administration, but for now has decided against taking a job in the federal government.
"I think its going to be the toughest implementation of federal policy since the civil rights law," Kingsdale said. "I love building stuff from scratch ... and I think the challenge of doing this nationally is absolutely breathtaking."
As executive director of the Connector Authority, Kingsdale shepherded the creation of many regulations that helped transform the nascent health care law from its broad outline when it was adopted in April 2006, to its detailed form today.
Under his leadership, the board adopted rules that define the minimum state standards for health insurance plans. It also developed a website for consumers and small businesses to shop for health insurance, an exchange that is often cited as a model for other states, which must set up similar exchanges under the federal law.
"I was hired in May 2006, so there was nobody else doing the Connector piece of this," Kingsdale recalled in a recent interview. "I found a room in the bowels of One Ashburton Place and it was just me. My first two employees didn't come on until early July."
Kingsdale, 61, who has spent more than 30 years working in the health care industry, will leave his post on June 4.
"Jon has done a great job during his tenure with the Connector and has helped put Massachusetts on the map as a leader in expanding health care coverage," Board chairman and Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez said in a statement.
The Patrick administration has named Glen Shor as the new executive director of the Connector. Shor has worked closely with the Connector board and staff for the last three years as Assistant Secretary for Health Care Policy and deputy general counsel within the
Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Here is the text of the letter of resignation Kingsdale sent today to the Connector board:
Dear Members of the Board:
I write to inform you of my decision to leave the Connector. After four years at the helm, I have decided to seek new challenges and will step down effective June 4, 2010.
I do so with a mixture of pride in our achievements and sorrow at saying good-bye to a truly exceptional team. The Board has been consistently constructive in governing this enterprise, building broad support for Massachusetts healthcare reform, and guiding the staff. My management team is the most dedicated, creative and competent assemblage of talent that I could wish for. They are now my good friends as well, and I will truly miss working with them.
Over the past four years, Board and staff have accomplished much for Massachusetts: first and foremost, we achieved the primary goal of the state’s 2006 health reform law, near-universal coverage. Just two short years after enactment, we reduced the uninsurance rate to 2.6%. For some 400,000 newly insured residents of Massachusetts, this has improved access to a broad array of medical services. And we built a solid foundation, so that even in a deep recession, with the loss of several hundred thousand jobs, our state maintains by far the lowest uninsurance rate in the nation.
As a Board, you have strengthened support for Massachusetts health reform by tackling a host of complex, controversial and potentially contentious policy issues with goodwill and intelligence. Emblematic of that spirit is your record of unanimity on virtually every Board vote, whether it be structuring Commonwealth Care benefits, enrollee contributions and cost-sharing, defining and re-defining Minimum Creditable Coverage, developing and annually updating the Affordability Schedule, or overseeing a robust and responsive appeals process for the individual mandate.
In light of the wide acceptance Massachusetts achieved for the individual mandate, it is worth recalling just how controversial this new public policy was. To our delight, public support for the state’s health care reform has only increased during implementation -- from 61% in 2006 to 67% in 2007, to 69% in 2008; as recently as January 2010, the same question asked of those who voted in the state’s special election for the U.S. Senate found support for Massachusetts reform undiminished (68%).
The individual mandate was accepted in part because of the extraordinary outreach and education efforts in which you all participated. This was a community-wide campaign, sponsored by various private groups and involving several state agencies cooperating to address the concerns of consumers, employers, providers and the public. The Connector conducted 338 public outreach meetings during the first two years of implementation.
The heroic efforts of this Board and of state employees also contributed greatly to successful execution. We launched Commonwealth Care within four months of your first meeting. As a mature program, it now handles some 40,000 customer calls a month and performs well above industry benchmarks for service. We also launched our “Connect-to-Health” outreach campaign with the Red Sox and Commonwealth Choice’s award-winning website in spring of 2007. That first year, you met in formal session every other week for hours at a time and volunteered many, many additional hours to making the tough decisions needed to initiate programs and issue regulations on a tight schedule.
Other state agencies worked overtime on their own assignments and to help us. We should especially acknowledge MassHealth, the Division of Insurance, the Department of Revenue and the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy for their collaboration.
Progress continues. Seven months ago, the Connector received the Kennedy School’s prestigious Innovations in American Government award. Less than three months ago, we launched “Business Express,” which can save many small employers over $300 per employee per year. Initial enrollment under Business Express exceeds expectations, and membership in Commonwealth Choice is now almost 30,000, 20% ahead of target for the year. Last week, we announced the fruits of a multi-agency initiative to re-structure how state schools purchase student health insurance: this collaboration produced a 15% enhancement in the value of coverage for 11,000 students at state and community colleges. Together, we have demonstrated that government works.
One more achievement merits special note: we have extended good, publicly-subsidized, private health insurance to some 175,000 low-income, otherwise uninsured residents, including legal immigrants. We have done so in partnership with five private health insurance plans: we treat the plans fairly, while prudently managing public dollars. Over the course of its first four years, Commonwealth Care has generated a modest overall margin for the five plans and has attracted a major new entrant to the state’s private insurance market; and we have kept the average annual cost increase for covering each of the 175,000 enrollees in Commonwealth Care and the “Bridge” program to just 2.6%.
Finally, we should all feel very proud of having created the model for national health reform. The power of the Bay State’s example is enormously consequential. I believe that national reform would not have happened without it.
For me personally, the opportunity to help lead the implementation of health reform in Massachusetts since its inception in June 2006 has been uniquely gratifying. It has also reinforced my long-standing interest in developing new ventures, my innate bias toward action, and a passion for healthcare reform. In my next venture, I hope to play some role in national healthcare reform and to continue working with each of you.
Thank you for this opportunity to serve and for your support during these past four years.
Jon M. Kingsdale, Ph.D.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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