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Vermont needs health care 'quarterback'; Miller appointed to new oversight position

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MONTPELIER, Vermont — Vermont Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller will be getting a new job overseeing the overhaul of the health care insurance system statewide, officials announced Thursday.

Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding led a news conference and praised Miller's work so far as Vermont complies with the nationwide health care overhaul. While acknowledging that many administration members were working on health care topics, Spaulding said Miller would have a new oversight and leadership role.

"The thing is, we actually need to have a quarterback who can make sure that all of us that have a role in this are supported and coordinated," Spaulding said.

The appointment of Miller comes after some lawmakers tried to push the state to produce a financial plan for universal health care, the release of a lengthy March report from a state consultant reviewing the troubled rollout of Vermont Health Connect and recent calls from a House committee for additional information on the plan.

Miller said his appointment was "in the natural order of things, as we've been evolving."

Patricia Moulton will succeed Miller at the Agency of Commerce. The transition is expected by June.

Miller has served as commerce secretary since 2011. He began working this year to help fix Vermont Health Connect, the state's version of federal health reform.

Under his new title — senior adviser to the governor and chief of health care reform — he will report directly to Gov. Peter Shumlin. As senior adviser, Miller will also oversee Vermont's planned transition to universal health care, sometimes called a single-payer system. Officials say they are still on track to have the system ready in 2017.

Miller emphasized that concerns about cost containment will be considered. When asked what businesses had been telling him, Miller said many were concerned about "unknowns," especially related to costs.

"First of all, they want to make sure they're not exposed to runaway cost increases in the future. That is the biggest concern and that's not just private businesses. That's our schools, that's our other institutions," Miller said.

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