Gov. Butch Otter’s health insurance exchange board has filled the position of executive director for the exchange. The board’s interim chairman and one of the board members defended the expedited process for the hiring because they believe the board is not a government agency.
Stephen Weeg, interim insurance exchange board chairman told IdahoReporter.com that Amy Dowd, currently a consultant with Ernst and Young in Portland, Ore., has been hired for the position.
At Monday’s inaugural board meeting, Weeg told fellow board members that they would need to move quickly to find an executive director, noting that the board would be reviewing a candidate being recommended by Otter during their closed-door, executive session meeting the next day.
Weeg also noted at that time that “anything we decide here is going to have to be funded with fees charged to the people of Idaho. So I think we need to run as lean as possible.”
After Tuesday’s closed-door board meeting, Weeg announced that Dowd had been hired for an annual salary of $175,000, and would begin the position “in about two weeks.”
“We’re about a week-and-a-half old, and this insurance exchange is just beginning,” Weeg told IdahoReporter.com when asked about the application and search process to fill the exchange’s executive director position. “We had a process that we worked on, I reviewed some resumes. I believe the governor’s office, the Department of Health and Welfare and the Department of Insurance reviewed some resumes as well.”
Weeg said he was asked about his interest in the position, but responded that he was not. “That’s when I agreed to serve as interim chairman. But none of us had the sense that this had to be run through a state human resources board. There was no indication that there had to be a public vetting process.”
Weeg told IdahoReporter.com that “the insurance exchange is a quasi-governmental entity, and we just have a lot to do in a very short period of time.” Noting that the technical, legal definition of the type of entity is “corporate body politic,” Weeg added that “I think we’re all just figuring out what exactly this means.”
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, also a member of the insurance exchange board, concurred with Weeg. “The insurance exchange is not a government agency,” he told IdahoReporter.com, “so it does not have to follow the same hiring and screening procedures that government agencies do.”
Noting that Dowd had worked on Otter’s insurance exchange “blueprint” plan last year, Rice said that “there were a number of resumes that were taken, but pretty much all of the applicants did not possess the qualifications that Dowd possesses. We have some really tight deadlines for developing the exchange, and when you've got somebody like Dowd that has the qualifications and fits the bill and is appropriate with what’s going on nationwide and that can hit the ground running, you have to get that person when you can.”
Rice added that to have executed a more thorough and public application process could have had been significantly troublesome for the development of the insurance exchange itself.
“If we were to have posted the job opening for two months, let’s say, and then do interviews for two weeks, then we would have lost considerable time,” he explained. “Frankly, we would run the risk of defaulting to a federal insurance exchange, because we would have been held back from meeting our deadlines.”
Earlier this year when legislation to authorize the creation of an insurance exchange was being debated by the Idaho Senate and the House of Representatives, a bipartisan group of legislators raised concerns about the lack of oversight and transparency of an insurance exchange.
Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, noted before the Senate Commerce Committee that “legislators need to think very carefully whether or not we want to abdicate our authority to a governing board” and “why is it that the governor, the executive branch, seems to have final authority over this?”
After that committee hearing, Durst told IdahoReporter.com that “we (members of the Legislature) have a responsibility to our constituents to be the gatekeepers of health care policy and we’re letting that go.”
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, debated before the House in opposition to the exchange bill. “This is not a state exchange,” he told his fellow House members. “If it were, we’d have state workers running it. It is a corporate body politic, consisting of unelected folks who will tax us and make our decisions. Have you really read this bill? If you want a state exchange, then have the state involved in running it for cryin’ out loud. If we wait a year, maybe we’ll know more about what the rules from Washington will be, maybe the Kool-Aid will be better then. This bill will create a ‘God Squad’ of people who can tax us, and control our health care and they will be unelected and unaccountable.”
Both Durst and Moyle voted “no” on the legislation that authorized the creation of the insurance exchange.