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Shumlin names new health care reform chief, commerce secretary - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Shumlin names new health care reform chief, commerce secretary

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

Thursday afternoon, the Shumlin administration announced a new senior adviser. Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller began focusing solely on Vermont's troubled health exchange rollout in January. Originally a temporary move, Miller will become the chief of health care reform in June, answering only to the governor.

"I think in 90-day blocks and my next three months are all about learning," Miller said.

Miller says it will take him time to get up to speed, but he is committed to keeping the push for a single-payer health care on track, currently scheduled to arrive in 2017. He says he'll spend about 25 percent of his time on the exchange and the rest looking forward.

Sen. Kevin Mullin, a critic of single-payer's feasibility, called Thursday's announcement a double-win, and complimented Miller's capabilities.

"He's going to have to take some abuse from us moving forward and we're looking forward to giving him a lot of that," said Mullin, R-Vermont.

As the Shumlin administration put an old face in a new position atop health reform efforts, legislators at the Statehouse proposed a new deadline for the administration to meet. A proposal under consideration would give the administration until next February to provide a financing plan for the single-payer system, expected to cost $2 billion. The measure is one of several proposed tweaks. The original Senate version contained a financing plan, but that element did not survive.

"There will continue to be unknowns for a while. We aren't going to be able to define all of the risks and ranges," Miller said.

The deadline is expected to pass the House. Administration spokespeople told lawmakers the timeline is doable. But without a penalty, some fear the Legislature won't have any recourse if it's missed, as they argue was the case more than a year ago when the governor offered a list of possible options but not a specific plan.

The House committee voted not to mandate the inclusion of adult dental coverage in a single-payer plan, instead leaving that decision to the Green Mountain Care Board.

And Governor Shumlin will replace the outgoing commerce secretary with another familiar face.

Patricia Moulton served as a deputy secretary within the agency until early last year. Moulton was Gov. Jim Douglas' labor commissioner and has held several prominent posts within state government.

She says she's excited to be back and leading a strong team.

"We have a lot of stuff going on here at this agency and it's all good and it all works together to help reinforce strong communities, good economic development and prosperity for Vermonters," Moulton said.

Moulton is expected to take over the reins June 1.

She says education-- including workforce development and ongoing learning-- will be especially important to Vermont's economy in the coming years.

Moulton's father became the state's economic development chief in 1964 and served under four governors.

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