Health Care

Another Green Mountain Care Board regulator says he will step down

Tom Pelham
Green Mountain Care Board member Tom Pelham speaks during a meeting in Montpelier on April 3, 2019. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Updated at 2:15 p.m.

Just weeks after the head of a powerful regulatory body in Vermont health care’s ecosystem announced he is retiring, another Green Mountain Care Board member plans to vacate his seat at the end of September, according to the board’s executive director. 

Tom Pelham’s retirement is scheduled for after this year’s hospital budget season cycle, which is slated to begin this summer. 

Susan Barrett, executive director of the Green Mountain Care Board, confirmed the news on Monday. She said staff would receive a formal announcement of the impending retirement that morning. 

In a phone interview Monday morning, Pelham said he’s leaving his post to focus on other things, such as tending his farm in Berlin. 

“I’m 72 and the board is an incredible amount of effort,” he added.

Gov. Phil Scott’s press secretary, Jason Maulucci, said Pelham’s retirement would not change the timeline to appoint a new chair, since Pelham’s seat would remain filled through Sept. 30.

“Our office will review candidates forwarded to us expeditiously, but the timeline at this point is in the hands of the nominating committee,” Maulucci wrote in a text message. 

Pelham is the second board member to announce he is stepping down in as many months, after board Chair Kevin Mullin announced he is slated to retire this summer.

Scott appointed Pelham in 2017. Pelham’s term was supposed to end in 2023, according to the Green Mountain Care Board website.

A public servant and former legislator who worked in several administrations over the years, Pelham had a hand in restructuring Medicaid payments and the Vermont Health Access Plan, a state precursor to the Affordable Care Act.

On the board, Pelham, 72, urged private insurers to increase their participation in the state’s all-payer model and OneCare Vermont, the Accountable Care Organization that’s almost synonymous with the state’s health reform efforts. Pelham lives in Berlin, according to a biography on the Green Mountain Care Board’s website.

In recent months, Pelham and another Scott appointee, Thom Walsh, voted against mid-year budget increase requests for Rutland Regional Medical Center and the two University of Vermont Health Network hospitals in Berlin and Burlington. The pair served as a powerful counterweight to board members Jessica Holmes and Robin Lunge, both appointed by Democratic governors originally. Mullin was often the tie-breaker. 

Pelham served as deputy secretary of administration and tax commissioner under Republican Gov. Jim Douglas, according to a biography on the Green Mountain Care board’s website. He also served as commissioner and deputy commissioner of finance and management under Democratic Gov. Howard Dean and was the deputy commissioner of housing and community affairs under Democrat Madeleine Kunin and Republican Richard Snelling. 

Pelham's announcement comes as the Scott administration mulls S.285, a bill that would give the Green Mountain Care Board more than $4 million for a community engagement study about gaps in Vermont's health care system. 

The governor’s office has final authority over appointments to the Green Mountain Care Board, but a short list of possibilities will be compiled by a committee that does not include care board members or staff members.

The process takes time. Pelham’s seat could be vacant after his retirement if the appointment process works as it has in the past. Scott recently appointed Walsh, a Dartmouth professor, to a care board seat that had been vacant for months. 

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Liora Engel-Smith

About Liora

Liora Engel-Smith covers health care for VTDigger. She previously covered rural health at NC Health News in North Carolina and the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire. She also had been at the Muscatine Journal in rural Iowa. Engel-Smith has master's degrees in public health from Drexel University and journalism from Temple University. Before moving to journalism, she was a scientist who briefly worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

Email: [email protected]

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