Ron Sims is taking the helm of Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange Board, which oversees the state’s health insurance exchange. Sims was appointed chair of the board by Gov. Jay Inslee, according to an announcement made today by the exchange.
The exchange, called the Washington Healthplanfinder, was created under the Affordable Care Act and is the marketplace where Washington residents can enroll in Medicaid and purchase insurance coverage, including insurance plans subsidized by the government.
The exchange and its board recently celebrated the close of its first enrollment period in which nearly 1 million people signed up for health care through the new online marketplace.
Sims is a locally well-known public figure who was King County executive from 1997 until his resignation in 2009, when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He left that post in 2011, explaining that it was difficult to be so far from his family in Seattle.
Sims has many years of experience working on health care issues and is currently serving as the chair of the Dean’s Council for the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. He recently rejoined the board of the Washington Health Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, patients and others to improve the state’s healthcare system. Sims is credited as being the driving force behind the creation of the group — formerly called Puget Sound Health Alliance — in 2004.
Sims is a “superb choice” to lead the exchange board, said Howard Frumkin, dean of the UW’s School of Public Health. “Ron knows and cares about health care very deeply.”
Frumkin applauded Sims’ successful incentive program to improve the health of King County employees and save the government money in health-care costs. He noted that Sims “has a deep commitment to people who have been under served” in the community and is concerned about educating people to better understand their health.
“He has an uncanny ability to inspire people to work together and he has a distinguished track record in public service,” Frumkin said. “He really is much more deeply experienced in health reform than many people.”
Sims’ term as chair for the exchange board runs from June 15 until the end of 2015.
Richard Onizuka, chief executive officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, issued a statement regarding Sims’ appointment:
“Sims brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the Exchange Board both as the founder and former chair of the Puget Sound Health Alliance and Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. With Ron’s guidance, we look forward to continuing the existing cooperative and collaborative relationship with the Exchange Board and building off of the foundation of a successful first enrollment year.”
Sims replaces Margaret Stanley, who is leaving the post because her two-year term has ended. Years ago, Sims and Stanley worked together on the health alliance, where Stanley was the first executive director.
Onizuka also offered his praise for Stanley:
“While her term has come to an end, Margaret’s passion and unwavering conviction to providing a range of quality health plan offerings to Washington families directly contributed to increased consumer choice, enhanced competition and undeniable value to residents here in our state.”
In addition to the chair, the exchange board has eight members as well as two ex-officio members: the state insurance commissioner and the director of the Health Care Authority, which helps manage Medicaid for the state. The governor appoints the board members from a pool of nominees provided by state lawmakers.
Insurance enrollment through the exchange will reopen again in November, but residents can sign up for Medicaid through the marketplace year-round.