Gov. Peter Shumlin is bringing a former Rhode Island health official to Vermont to serve as his new commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.
On Monday, the governor named Rhode Island's former secretary of health and human services, Steven Costantino, to replace outgoing commissioner Mark Larson.
Larson announced last month he is leaving the job in March, nearly a year and a half after troubles at the state's federally mandated health insurance exchange, Vermont Health Connect, became public. DVHA oversees the exchange and administers the state's other health care programs.
Costantino, a Democrat, spent 16 years in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, the last two as chairman of its finance committee. He ran for mayor of Providence in 2010, but lost in a primary. Costantino headed the Executive Office of Health & Human Services under independent governor Lincoln Chafee, but was out of a job when Chafee's successor, Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, did not keep him on.
Raimondo did hire another Vermonter to play a key role in her administration: Last month, she named Anya Rader Wallack, Shumlin's former health care adviser and the first chair of Vermont's Green Mountain Care Board, to run Rhode Island's health insurance exchange, HealthSourceRI.
Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said it was Shumlin's own connection to Costantino that led to his hiring. In a written statement, Shumlin said, “I have known Steven since our days serving in our respective state legislatures and understand him to be a dynamic, hands-on leader."
Shumlin said Health Commissioner Harry Chen will continue to provide daily executive oversight of Vermont Health Connect. He took over that role from chief of health care reform Lawrence Miller at the start of the legislative session so that Miller could concentrate on working with the legislature.