Updated March 27 at 12:27pm
health care

Health leaders reflect on Koller’s departure


PROVIDENCE – The announcement that R.I Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller had taken a new job as president of the Milbank Memorial Fund in New York City and would be leaving his position in Rhode Island at the end of June took many by surprise, including Care New England President and CEO Dennis Keefe.

Keefe told the Providence Business News that he saw the new job at Milbank as a great opportunity for Koller rather than a sign of any ongoing policy conflict in Rhode Island.

First appointed in 2005, Koller became the first health insurance commissioner not only in Rhode Island but the United States. The legislation to create his position had been championed by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts when she served in the R.I. Senate.

Among Koller’s accomplishments during his eight-year stint as health commissioner were the establishment of affordability standards as part of the contracts between health insurers and providers, and the creation of the Rhode Island Chronic Sustainability Initiative, a patient-centered medical home model of health care delivery which recently announced its plans to expand to cover more 200,000 Rhode Islanders.

Koller also was a driving force behind Rhode Island’s efforts to secure early federal funding for the state’s health benefits exchange.

Koller told the Providence Business News that he was “still churning away at my work” and that he wasn’t quite ready to be “retrospective yet” about his accomplishments.

Christine Ferguson, executive director of the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange, with whom she has worked very closely, praised Koller’s leadership on behalf of health care reform in Rhode Island. .

“Chris Koller has been an important voice for Rhode Island health care consumers, and he has helped improve the quality, accessibility, and affordability of the health care system,” Ferguson said.

On a personal note, Ferguson added: “I have admired and enjoyed working very closely with Chris in my role as Director of the R.I. Health Benefits Exchange and back to the 1990s, when he was the CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan. We have gained much from his intelligence and acumen.”

Ferguson called Koller’s departure is a loss for Rhode Island, but said he will be able to continue to contribute to the health reform debate in his new role at the Milbank Memorial Fund.


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