Raimondo’s Choice for HealthSource RI Failed in Vermont

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


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RI's New Obamacare Head Backed Failed Vermont Single-Payer Effort

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo's replacement of Christy Ferguson at HealthSource RI -- Anya Rader Wallack -- comes from the recently failed single-payer effort in Vermont, which has come under national scrutiny for its demise.

 “We can move full speed ahead with what we need without knowing where the money’s coming from,” assured Anya Rader-Wallack in 2012 as Vermont Governor Shumlin’s Special Counsel for Health Care Reform. The comment was cited by Forbes' Avik Roy in "Six Reasons Why Vermont's Single Payer Plan Was Doomed from the Start," on December 21 of this past year.  

Just two years later, the plan, which would have cost tens of million and would have been financed by an 11.5% payroll tax for employers, and a 9.5% tax on all Vermonters, according to the Burlington Free Press, was tabled.   And according to a recent article by Vox, most estimates suggest that the single payer system would cost $2 billion each year ("For a state that only collects $2.7 billion in revenue, that is a large sum of money," wrote Sarah Kilff.

"Not only would Green Mountain Care cost more by covering more people than Obamacare, it would cost more by forcing everyone to obtain more financially generous coverage than people currently have. Is it any wonder that the costs of such a plan were prohibitive? But Vermont’s single-payer religionists were not to be deterred," wrote Roy. 

As Rhode Island wrestles with the financial viability HealthSource RI, whose budget is $26.3 million for FY16, the fact that the federal government will be pulling back state subsidies for operations at the end of the year has its future uncertain.  

"It's one thing to debate whether or not [Rhode Island] should fund its own exchange or return it to the federal government," said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. "It's another thing, completely against free market principles, for HealthSource RI to be a single payer socialist takeover for the entire health care industry in state."

Changing of the Guard

The decision by Raimondo to replace Ferguson with Wallack was announced on December 30.  

“Anya brings the right mix of policy expertise, management skill and innovative thinking to this job,” said Governor-elect Raimondo at the time.  “We need a leader who can establish HSRI as a sustainable and affordable organization that provides clear return-on-investment to Rhode Island families and employers.”

However, critics of the state-run program question Wallack's past experience, and its potential impact on the state, as elected officials continue to wrestle with how to address HealthSource RI's future.  

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Wallack and her husband have given $3500 to former Lt. Governor -- and now head of Health and Human Services -- Elizabeth Roberts (seen here).

"Last year, [Representative] Frank Ferri would have turned HealthSource RI into the top of the pyramid for Medicaid, hospitals, everything.  There would have been a spending cap, a code word for quota -- which would have led inevitably to rationing," said Stenhouse.  "We testified against that bill, we thought it was the most dangerous thing we'd seen in a while.  I called it a plan one could expect to see coming out of Communist China. We hope it's not the role the new Governor and Ms. Wallack look to take." 

"We know that Ms. Wallack apparently backed a similar scheme in Vermont, which has since been found to be too severe for even Vermonters," continued Stenhouse.  "And we believe it is precisely the wrong direction for the new Governor, and for Rhode Island to take and we await to know what Governor Raimondo and Ms. Wallack intend to do."

Rhode Island Ties

In her release, Raimondo touts Wallack's experience in Maine and Massachusetts -- but makes no mention of Wallack's work, or connections, in Rhode Island.  

"Wallack served from 2011-2013 as the first Chair of the Green Mountain Care Board in Vermont, a regulatory agency that oversees insurance rates, hospital budgets and health care payment innovation.  Since 2013, she has chaired the Vermont Health Care Innovation Project, which aims to overhaul provider payment, health information technology and care coordination in the state to achieve cost containment while maintaining high quality care.  Much of Wallack’s work has focused on cost containment efforts in healthcare, including her role as member and chair of the Cost Containment Committee of the Massachusetts Health Care Quality and Cost Council from 2008-2010," wrote the Raimondo camp in their release.  

Wallack's firm Arrowhead Analytics lists on their website two Rhode Island groups as clients -- the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Office of the Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner.

"Arrowhead did research on health care reform in 2010 for which it was paid $7,870.25," confirmed Chris Barnett with the Rhode Island Foundation, of the Fall River, MA-based consulting company. 

Rhode Island campaign finance records show that Wallack and her husband, who live in Little Compton, have given over $10,000 to Rhode Island candidates since 2009 -- including $3500 to former Lt. Governor and architect and chief implementer of HealthSource RI, Elizabeth Roberts, in 2009 and 2010 alone.  Roberts is now

Trail from Vermont 

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Following her departure from the Green Mountain Care Board in 2013, Wallack's Arrowhead Analytics was awarded a sole source contract for an innovation project with the state in August 2013 for a year contract worth $100,000.   The Vermont Agency of Administration for Health Care Reform confirmed that the contract had been extended in August 2014 for an additional year.  Wallack and her husband Stanley Wallack are the only staff listed on the Arrowhead website; Wallack's husband and his experience is not listed on documents explaining the decision by Vermont to not put the contract out to bid -- just Rader Wallack's. 

Maria Tocco with HealthSource RI said that she could not comment on any prior contracts of Wallack's, but noted that before Arrowhead was formed, Wallack worked as a health policy analysis consultant for the Office of the Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner from 2006 to 2009. 


Related Slideshow: The 14 Biggest Blunders of 2014

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Unauthorized edits

Providence Journal Rewrites Governor’s Op-Ed Without Approval

In may be the greatest example of "this is not Jim Wyman’s Providence Journal" --  the bizarre episode in which the paper rewrote Governor Lincoln Chafee’s Op-Ed piece without his approval.

Governor Lincoln Chafee took the editorial board of the Providence Journal to task for an "agenda-driven" rewrite of his opinion piece explaining his appointment of Richard Licht to serve as a member of the Judiciary.

Chafee in a one-on-one interview voiced concern about the unilateral rewrite. "I have never seen a piece rewritten like this," said Chafee. "Sure, when submitting to the New York Times they might make edits, but never without calling."

The two versions of Governor Chafee's opinion piece can be read here unedited.

The rewrite of the Chafee submission is dramatic and highly unusual and was not cleared by the Journal with Governor Chafee or his staff.

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NEA Was Mad - So Mad That they Lost Their Political Mind

The National Education Association was mad. Mad at Gina Raimondo for pension reform. Mad at Angel Taveras for firing all of the teachers in Providence.

They were so mad they put all their effort behind Clay Pell, a 32-year-old just a couple years out of law school with no elected experience. Pell spent freely. 

Total Spent: $3,664,207
Total Votes: 32,986
Cost Per Vote: $111.08

Pell spent millions to finish a distant 3rd and NEA’s efforts ensured that Raimondo won the primary.

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Needs a Compass

Fung Shot “RI Open for Business” Ad in Ohio

GoLocal’s investigative piece about Allan Fung shooting a RI small business campaign ad in Ohio went national. The article by Kate Nagle unveiled the hypocrisy of a ad focused on growing small biz being shot in the midwest. 

The story ended up on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer - Ohio’s top newspaper.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung's latest campaign ad, "Open for Business," touts Fung's experience as Mayor of Cranston and vision for Rhode Island -- and based on photographic and campaign finance evidence, appears to have been shot in Columbus, Ohio.

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PC Flops (Again)

Brown Beats PC 2 of of the Last 3 Three Years

PC student-athletes attend the college in hopes of following the path of NBA stars like Ernie D, Jimmy Walker, Austin Croshere, Ryan Gomes, Michael Smith, Marvin Barnes, Dickey Simpkins, Lenny Wilkens, Eric Murdock, and Eric Williams to name a few.

Student-athletes playing for Brown have hopes of being doctors, investment bankers or launching a cool start-up.

No Brown hoop player has ever been recruited by a Providence College-level program. So for Brown to beat PC two of the past three years is a huge feather in the coaching cap of Mike Martin at Brown.  Don’t forget, Brown was just one Sean McGonagill away from making it three-for-three.

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Handstand Trouble

Tremmel’s Handstand Leads to Firing, Grievance and Settlement

As GoLocal’s Dean Starkman wrote in February, local TV is changing and it may not be for the best.

In order to get ratings, WJAR-10’s reporter did a series of outrageous stories - one about how to survive a bear attack and many went downhill from there.

At first glance, the dismissal of Julie Tremmel may not seem to amount to much. A young reporter is dismissed from a local TV station… and so? 

So a lot, actually.

For one thing, the Tremmel-WJAR affair is not over – not by a long shot.
In her first public statement since her dismissal from the local TV news leader – a GoLocal Prov exclusive – the former night-side reporter for the 11 o’clock news fired off a combative statement that can be seen as a first shot across the bow of her ex-employer:
"I was terminated without cause from WJAR and my Union and I are fighting it through the grievance and arbitration process in our Contract with the Station,” Tremmel tells me in an email. “That is all I'm prepared to say at this time.”

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He Does it Again

Dean Esserman Does It Again

Dean Esserman, former Providence Police Chief and present New Haven Police Chief, threatened to “shut down the whole (Army-Yale football) game” after an usher had asked Esserman for a ticket and a supervisor had refused to “remove” the usher from the Yale Bowl.

Dean Esserman who was forced to resign as the Police Chief of Providence after GoLocalProv investigation uncovered that he had allowed his high school aged daughter and more than 100 friends have a drug and alcohol party at his home under his supervision.

The Army-Yale football game incident came to light after a Yale Assistant Professor Dan Weinberger wrote a letter unveiling the verbal abuse by Esserman. 


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Wrong Race

The Master of the Multi-Candidate Race...Miscalculated

Buddy Cianci lost his first race for Mayor in 2014. If he had run in the Democratic primary for Mayor, he might very well be the Mayor-elect of Providence today. 

In all likelihood, Cianci’s voters would have come out for him in the primary. He won 17,306 votes in the general election and Jorge Elorza won the Democratic primary with just 11,051 total votes.

While the line-up in the primary may have shifted, Brett Smiley may have stayed in the race thinking if he won the East Side in a Elorza-Solomon-Cianci-Smiley primary, he could be Mayor. While hindsight is 20/20, the numbers show a Democratic primary run by Cianci would most likely have made hm the Mayor-elect.

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Forgot to Vote & His Car

Forgot to Vote and Can’t Find his Car

When you are running for Governor in your early 30’s, you may want to get things buttoned up before running.  As GoLocal first reported, Clay Pell failed to vote the majority of the times he was eligible to vote as an adult. He missed more than 50% of the time.

Then, it came to light that Pell had lost his car a couple of times. No, really.

Nothing was more absurd than the statement that Pell campaign issued regarding his lost car:

“On December 17 of last year, Clay went to a meeting at a coffee shop near his home. While he drove to the coffee shop from another meeting, after he had finished, he walked back to his home – as he often does. The next morning, he went outside and found that the car was not parked on the street in front his home, where he believed he had left it.

“He called the Providence Police Department and reported the car missing. An officer arrived quickly, and took his statement. Afterward, Clay walked to the coffee shop near his home, and noticed the car was parked nearby. Roughly twenty minutes had passed since Clay had spoken with the officer, and he immediately called the police and informed them he had found the vehicle.

“The dispatcher told Clay another patrol would be sent to take his statement. Clay waited for nearly two hours for the officer to arrive, and when he did, the officer never stepped out of his patrol vehicle. He asked Clay if he had misplaced the car, and Clay replied that he had.

“The incident report errs on several key details. The report of the first officer, who took Clay’s statement that the car was missing, notes that he arrived at Clay's home at 2:25 pm. The report of the second officer, who took Clay’s statement after the car was found, states he arrived at 2:00 pm – before the first officer had taken Clay’s statement, and long before the second officer and Clay actually spoke.

“The report notes the car was running when the second officer arrived, which it was. Clay had started the car because it was cold and he had been waiting for nearly two hours. Additionally, the report claims the doors were locked and the interior showed no sign of damage – neither of which could have observed without exiting the squad car. And, finally, the report does not include either the officer asking Clay if he had misplaced the car, or Clay’s response."

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Kerr, Brussat and Others

Projo Firing Kerr, Brussat and Other Top Journalists

When GateHouse purchased the Providence Journal, the company did a blood letting of 50 plus from their staff. In was the third major round of layoffs in the past three years. More layoffs are expected in January as copy editing staff will be eliminated and the function will be transferred to Austin, Texas.

These cuts were a little different. This time the Providence Journal eliminated some of the most read and branded writers. 

Bob Kerr was let go. He has been one of the best read and one of the few reasons anyone continued to subscribe. In addition, the Projo let Dave Brussat, the venerable editorial writer and Dr. Downtown columnist go too.

Kerr is now an occasional contributor to RINPR and Brussat writes for GoLocal. The Projo’s cuts are other media’s gain.

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Providence Mayor-Elect Jorge Elorza admitted he five-finger discounted some clothes and then lifted his apology letter too.

Shoplifting as a young adult certainly should not be prohibit you from being an elected official later in life.  Plagiarizing your letter of apology from another elected official who shoplifted as a young man definitely qualifies as a blunder.

As GoLocal reported:

Providence mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza’s admission that he had been arrested for shoplifting was taken word for word from a letter Central Falls Mayor James Diossa issued to constituents explaining his arrest on the same charge.

Elorza’s campaign confirmed in a statement to GoLocalProv that the former housing court judge had been arrested as an 18-year-old for shoplifting a shirt from a department store in Warwick. Elorza pled no contest to the charge and served 20 hours of community service.

In a June 20 letter to 7,000 Providence voters, Elorza said he had learned an important lesson from the incident and had turned his life around.

Elorza wrote: “I want to be upfront about a mistake I made years ago as a young man, because I want you to hear the story directly from me. When I was 18 years old, I was caught shoplifting a shirt from a department store. Why did I do it? I don’t have a good answer. Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends. I knew it was the wrong thing to do, and I accepted full responsibility immediately. I faced a judge and served my community service hours, grateful that I had adults who loved me unconditionally and supported me when I needed it. I learned a valuable lesson and I’ve never been in trouble with the law again.”

His confession is taken nearly word for word from a letter Diossa sent on Oct. 6, 2012.

“Like many people, I have had my share of ups and downs. I want to be upfront about a mistake I made years ago as a young man, because I want you to hear the story directly from me and not from an opponent of mine.  When I was a teenager, I was arrested for shoplifting a bottle of cologne from a store.  Why did I do it?  I don’t have a good answer.  Like a lot of teenagers, I wanted to impress my friends.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do and I accepted full responsibility immediately.  I faced a judge and served my community service hours, grateful that I had caring adults who loved me unconditionally and supported me when I needed it. I learned a lot from that experience.”

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Little Part of the World

He Controlled a Little Part of the World

Gordon Fox was the most powerful man in Rhode Island. With a resume from a Charles Dickens novel and a likability factor unmatched, Fox owned Rhode Island.

In March of 2014, his world came to a screeching halt as FBI and IRS agents raided his home and the Speaker’s Office in the State House.

Within days he resigned as Speaker and later announced he would not run for re-election. 

In the course of a couple of weeks, Fox went from the most powerful person in Rhode Island government to a retiring State Rep. And we should know in the next few months what the nature of the real blunder is -- the one that has everyone speculating why his office was raided in the first place.

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Paiva Weed Casino Flip-Flop

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed's former law partner used to represent Newport Grand, and as Senate President she has orchestrated the passage through the General Assembly to put the question of extending table games to the facility before the voters.  Once again.

Then, low and behold in the midst of a tough local challenger - she came out opposed to adding table games to the facility.

Step one: wet finger

Step two: put finger in the air

Step three: determine which way the wind is blowing

Step four: announce public policy position

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Ethics Violations

Solomon’s Ethics Issues

Michael Solomon ran for Mayor of Providence to give the city new leadership. The only problem was that he was leaving a trail of his past record which included the failure to disclose numerous conflict issues. A GoLocal investigation unveiled a sweeping array of issues that ultimately lead to Solomon being fined by the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.

State Ethics Commission filings by City Council President Michael Solomon show the Providence Mayoral candidate failed to report the correct information for his Conrad building PEDP loan between 2005 and 2010, and while an amended filing in 2012 corrected two of the years, other outstanding issues remain. 

The Conrad Building property, of which Solomon has an outstanding Providence city loan dating back to 1988 as a minority shareholder, was listed at its location at 385 Westminster Street in his ethics reports for 2009 through 2013.  The Hummel Report's Jim Hummel first reported in that Solomon still owed the city 24 years later on the $500,000 loan

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Polling Bias

WPRI-12 Using a Democratic Consultant for Polling

One problem each year for voters is getting a beat on the viability of certain candidates. The problem is further exasperated when one of the TV stations runs polling from a political consultant who polls some of the very Democratic candidates he gets paid by - to a tune of $153,000

A political pollster being billed as independent has received tens of thousands in consulting fees from former Speaker Gordon Fox, sitting Speaker Nick Mattiello, House Democratic leaders, and Senate Democratic leaders

With Brown University's polling on hiatus, the only public polling during the election season is the polling commissioned by WPRI-12 with Joe Fleming of Fleming & Associates.

What WPRI-12 and Fleming & Associates fail to disclose is that Fleming has been paid exclusively by Democrats as a consultant and these clients include many of the most powerful Democrats in Rhode Island.

RI's Incestuous Culture

"I think its indicative of the incestuous "know-a-guy" state that there's such an autonomy of power -- once again, it's one of those things that make you question whether or not there is proper level of neutrality," said Jeff Deckman, former Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party and current leadership consultant.  


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