Patrick Administration Loses Another Top Official

Another high-level Patrick administration official is leaving, this time to become president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

Sarah Iselin is the fourth major departure in recent months for Gov. Deval Patrick, who's already lost his top budget chief, transportation secretary and chief of staff.

Iselin has been commissioner for nearly three years of the state's Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, where she's played a major role in the implementation of the state health reform. She called her new post at the foundation, whose mission is to expand access to health care through grant-making and policy initiatives, a "fabulous job."

Sarah Iselin
Sarah Iselin

"It's really just that opportunities come, you don't always plan them and you don't always plan the timing," she said. "But in the end this was one I decided not to let pass me by."

Iselin has worked previously at the foundation; she was its director of policy and research from its inception in 2001 until she left in 2005 to work for the corporate side of Blue Cross Blue Shield. While at the foundation, she helped develop the "Roadmap to Coverage" initiative, which became the framework for the state's landmark 2006 health reform law. She began working for the state in March 2007.

Iselin's new position, which she starts in January, comes with a big raise. Her annual state pay is $127,000; the foundation's previous president, Jarrett Barrios, made $270,000 a year.

During her tenure with the state, Iselin co-chaired a special commission that recently recommended a radical change in the way doctors and hospital are paid — from the current fee-for-service model to an approach in which doctors would receive a set amount of money to spend on each patient per year.

"One of things about this opportunity that's most appealing to me is, while I may be leaving the public sector, I'll still be working on all of these issues," Iselin said, "and I'm really looking forward to hopefully being able to work with and support the administration in its continued commitment to health reform in Massachusetts. So I'm not going far."

Iselin has a master's degree in health policy and management from the Harvard School of Public Health and an undergraduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In a statement, Philip W. Johnston, chairman of the foundation's board of directors, said that Iselin "has extensive knowledge of Massachusetts health care reform" and described her as "the ideal leader for the foundation as Massachusetts continues to implement and refine its approach to expanding health coverage to residents."

In the past three months, the Patrick administration has also lost the services of Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan, who took a job at Harvard University; chief of staff Doug Rubin, who left to focus on campaign issues; and Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi.

This program aired on October 22, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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Sacha Pfeiffer was formerly the host of WBUR's All Things Considered.



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