MONTPELIER – Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson is stepping down from his post in March and will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Lori Collins on an interim basis, the Shumlin administration announced Tuesday.
Larson has had a rocky tenure as commissioner. It included overseeing the botched rollout of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s online health insurance marketplace that is part of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Larson, a former state representative from Burlington and chairman of the House Health Care Committee, was eventually stripped of his oversight of the exchange in September of last year by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The site was taken offline by the state after the federal government raised concerns over its security and threatened to disconnect the state from a federal data hub.
Larson oversight role was taken over by Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller, Shumlin’s former Commerce secretary, who was first brought on in January 2014 to help the Shumlin administration right the ship after the botched exchange rollout in October 2013.
Larson was also chastised last year by Shumlin and legislative leaders after he offered misleading statements concerning an exchange security breach to the House Health Care Committee.
Still, Shumlin praised Larson’s work as commissioner in a statement Tuesday.
“Mark has worked as hard as anyone on my team over the last four years,” Shumlin said. “Mark led the Department through some challenging times, but no one cared more or tried harder to overcome those challenges so Vermonters could access affordable health care than Mark. Thanks to the work of Mark and others, tens of thousands more Vermonters are now insured. I appreciate his service and understand his desire to take some time to step back and explore new opportunities.”
Larson, in his statement released by the administration, acknowledged the challenges during his tenure, but also noted the decrease in Vermont’s uninsured population.
“The last three years have involved a historic transition in health care for Vermont and our country, and has not been without its challenges. I am proud of the fact that in Vermont we have reduced by half the number of uninsured Vermonters and are on track to significantly reform how Medicaid pay providers for health services,” Larson said. “I am proud to have been part of this tremendous effort. As the Department prepares to engage its next phase of work, it is time for me to move on to new opportunities. I look forward to stepping back to the role of citizen and witnessing the continued progress toward coverage for all Vermonters and more rational ways to pay for health services.”
DVHA, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program, implemented an expansion of Medicaid services available under the ACA. That resulted in thousands of Vermonters obtaining new coverage through Medicaid. The administration also highlighted DVHA’s role in the Blueprint for Health, which has allowed most Vermonters to receive primary care from an enrolled provider.
A search is ongoing for a permanent replacement, according to the administration.