Several Members of Massachusetts Exchange Board Removed

Published March 19, 2015

Newly elected Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has asked the four board members of the Massachusetts Health Connector appointed by his predecessor, former Gov. Deval Patrick (D), to resign.

The 11-member board runs the state’s insurance exchange established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

One of the board members asked to resign was Jonathan Gruber, a principal architect of the ACA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Gruber gained notoriety in late 2014 when he was caught on video making disparaging remarks about the American public. Gruber infamously boasted on video how the lack of transparency of the ACA was possible because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

Josh Archambault, senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, says it is unwise for states to take up their own exchanges like Massachusetts has done.

“Given the poor track record of the overly expensive and sub-optimal state-based exchanges … why would a state want to take on such a costly and complex endeavor?” Archambault said. “These exchanges have struggled to function, and many have questionable financial futures. They have been a poor return on investment for taxpayers when compared to, and that is setting the bar very low to begin with. States would be wise to opt for the federal exchange.”

 Board Oversaw Failed Launch

The other members removed from the board—George Gonser, John Bertko, and Rick Jakious—had considerably lower profiles than Gruber and were experts in insurance, actuarial science, and nonprofit organizations, respectively. Gruber and Gonser were on the board during the initial launch of the Massachusetts Health Connector, which was mired in technology failures. The botched rollout was estimated to have cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars.

Baker says the motivation behind asking the board members to resign was so he could install his own people on the board, not because of the controversy surrounding Gruber.

“As with all incoming administrations, I am establishing a new leadership team and I have instructed those individuals to take a fresh look at the Connector and to implement ideas to improve the operation of that important state entity,” Baker wrote in a letter requesting the resignations.

“[The best options for Baker now would be to] appoint people with a critical eye to financial management and efficiency [and push] for a reform that reconstitutes the board with more members that use the Connector, and/or collapse it into the state and municipal employees system to reduce duplication,” said Archambault.

Baker appointed two new members to the board immediately prior to its most recent meeting, selecting insurance executive Mark Gaunya to fill the seat reserved for an insurance broker and consultant Rina Vertes for the seat reserved for an actuary.

Alexander Anton ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Chicago.