And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

“Carry your cup in your hand.
And look around.
Leaves are brown.
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hang on to your hopes, my friend.
That's an easy thing to say,
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again.
Look around,
The grass is high,
The fields are ripe,
It's the springtime of my life.

Seasons change with the scenery;
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won't you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips
Looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme.”

                                             Simon & Garfunkle

                                             Lyrics by Paul Simon


Long Time Executive Director Retires

How do you bid adieu to an Executive Director who has been synonymous with the GIC for almost half of the agency’s 60 years?  Not easily.  Dolores L. Mitchell, GIC Executive Director since 1987, announced her retirement at the December 2015 Commission meeting.  She served under seven governors — from the administration of Michael Dukakis through current Governor Charlie Baker.  During that time, she saw a lot of changes in the Commonwealth; but more importantly, she helped transform health care.  “The years have flown by since I came to the GIC, and I haven’t had a dull day since,” Mitchell said.  “There’s a saying in poker that you have to know when to ‘hold them’ or ‘fold them.’ I have come to the conclusion that it’s better to leave when people are either honestly or dishonestly telling you they’re sorry you’re going to go, than stay too long and have them say, ‘It’s time for her to leave already.’ So I’m going to fold ‘em,” she told the Commission.

Passionate about the GIC’s dual objective of quality benefits at reasonable costs, Dolores Mitchell was never been afraid to push for changes, even when they were controversial.  She was a leader in calling attention to patient safety, care coordination, differences in provider cost and quality, and the need to get everyone’s arms around the health care cost monster.  Among her achievements:

  • Instituting mental health parity that was used as a model for subsequent legislation;
  • Being the first New England purchaser to join Leapfrog, dedicated to improving patient safety in hospitals;
  • Developing the Clinical Performance Improvement Initiative for evaluating specialists on quality and cost-efficiency;
  • Implementing the Centered Care Initiative fostering better integrated care for members and holding doctors, hospitals, and other providers accountable for overuse of costly resources.  It also flags the disparities in the cost and quality of care they provide; and
  • Executing municipal health reform, which enables municipalities and school districts to join the GIC, thereby saving them millions of dollars on their health care costs.

“Under Dolores Mitchell's leadership, the GIC has been a powerful force for innovative and sustainable coverage for its enrollees and for the health care system across Massachusetts,” said Commission Chair, Katherine Baicker, Ph. D. “We all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude."

A New Executive Director

The Commission performed due diligence in a short time frame to find a new Executive Director.  It formed a subcommittee in collaboration with the larger Commission that developed criteria for the next leader of the agency.  The Commission determined that health policy leadership, managing finances and staff, and communicating with members, stakeholders, the media, the Legislature and others was highly desirable, as was knowledge of the local market and experience managing a comparable organization. A corresponding job description was developed and posted by mid-January.  GIC staff and the Chair reviewed thirty-four applications from which sixteen were selected for review by the subcommittee members.  This list was further culled to five for in person interviews. 

In March, the Commission held public interviews with the two finalists.  In a near-unanimous vote, the Commission authorized the staff to extend an offer to Dr. Roberta Herman of Navigant Consulting, a former Chief Operating Officer of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and primary care physician.

"Dr. Herman will bring crucial skills and experience to this very important position, including her impressive accomplishments as a physician and a quality improvement innovator,” said Commission Chair Katherine Baicker Ph.D. “GIC enrollees and the people of the Commonwealth will benefit enormously from her leadership.”

Consulting commitments meant that Dr. Herman could not start immediately and, fortunately, the Commission was able to turn to Ray Campbell, a Commissioner who had stepped down in the fall so that he could assist the agency with the transition.  He ably bridged the gap between Executive Director Mitchell’s retirement and Dr. Herman’s end June start date.  He was subsequently appointed by the Governor to be the Executive Director of the Commonwealth’s Center for Health Information and Analysis.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .