Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, Rhode Island’s most prominent healthcare advocate, is slated to become the next director of the state Health and Human Services Department, according to a press release from Governor-elect Gina Raimondo on Sunday.
“Elizabeth Roberts is the right leader for HHS because she has the key combination of management skills and compassion for the thousands of people the agency serves. We will keep Rhode Island families healthy, while also cracking down on fraud and focusing on fiscal discipline in order to cut costs,” Raimondo said in the release. “The Lieutenant Governor’s years of experience working on various health and human services issues, coupled with her unwavering dedication to making our state stronger, makes her the best choice to lead this office.”
Roberts said in the press release: “I am honored to be joining the Raimondo administration and look forward to rolling up my sleeves to make sure Rhode Islanders of all ages have access to the quality services they deserve. Once confirmed, I will focus on how to improve our delivery systems across all agencies to make sure we are providing the best care, while reassessing our cost structures and contracts. I look forward to serving on the team that will advance Governor-elect Raimondo’s vision for ensuring a healthy future for Rhode Islanders and a healthy economy for our state.”
The Providence Journal reports Roberts will focus on healthcare policy, about which Raimondo said Roberts is “one of the nation’s experts in this issue.” But the department has other responsibilities as well.
It’s $3 billion budget represents about 40 percent of state spending, according to the ProJo story. And Karen Ziner also reports, “the agency oversees the Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Department of Health; the Department of Human Services [including the divisions of Elderly Affairs and Veterans Affairs]; and the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.”
Roberts was instrumental in HealthSourceRI, recognized as one of the most successful state-run health care exchanges in the nation. She chaired the commission tasked with creating the exchange and making health care more affordable in Rhode Island.
And according to the Raimondo press release:
Prior to taking office in 2007, Lt. Governor Roberts spent over a decade as one of Rhode Island’s most respected advocates for quality, affordable health care for families and small businesses and earned a statewide reputation for being a tireless leader on health and medical issues.
While serving in the Senate, Roberts was an acknowledged leader on healthcare reform issues. She is credited with creating the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, an important mechanism for controlling health insurance costs and expanding primary care in Rhode Island. She championed legislation to protect the safety of residents in nursing homes. Then-Senator Roberts also led the effort to reform the corporate board structure at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island, providing for more transparency and public accountability. As Lt. Governor and most recently as chair of the state’s Healthcare Reform Commission, Roberts has led the implementation of federal health reform in Rhode Island, a nationally recognized success in reducing the number of the uninsured and lowering the cost of health insurance.
According to her bio page: “Roberts has led the fight to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to high quality health care at a cost they can afford.”
Watch this video of her talking about healthcare in Rhode Island and HealthSourceRI to the League of Women Voters.