Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby will leave the Patrick administration, along with three other cabinet members, as the governor prepares for his last two years in office, Glen Johnson of the Globe staff reported late yesterday.
Bigby will be replaced by John Polanowicz, who has been president of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, part of Steward Health Care, since last year. He previously led Marlborough Hospital.
Under Bigby’s leadership, the office led sweeping changes to health care in the state, as the state implemented the 2006 health care law that required most people in Massachusetts to have health insurance and made coverage nearly universal. Through that process, “she made sure that the focus never left Medicaid while attention was lavished on Commonwealth Care and the Connector,” a post on the Health Care for All blog about her departure said.
Her office also was central to drafting cost-containment legislation signed by Patrick in August. The law strengthened the national spotlight on Massachusetts, as it became the first state to set a limit on health care spending.
But Bigby’s leadership has been under scrutiny in recent months, following two major scandals, with Republican lawmakers calling for her resignation. A chemist who worked at a lab run by the Department of Public Health, which Bigby oversees, was arrested in September and accused of tampering with drug samples, throwing into question thousands of convictions. The department also has been blamed for lax regulation of a Framingham compounding pharmacy whose tainted steroids have sickened hundreds of people and led to 37 deaths nationally.
Bigby, a primary care physician, will be replaced by a hospital executive who has worked most recently for the state’s second largest health care system.
Polanowicz, in his new role, will sit on the board of the Health Policy Commission, an independent state agency tasked with implementing much of the health care cost law and holding hospitals and doctors accountable to the state spending target. He will be joined there by Glen Shor, who will return to the Patrick administration to take over for outgoing Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez after two years leading the Massachusetts Health Connector, which runs the state’s virtual health insurance market for individuals and small businesses.