Governor’s health care adviser takes private sector post

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s special adviser on health reform will leave the administration in January to become senior vice president for a nonprofit health care and education service, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

Jeannette DeJesús, who has been responsible for coordinating the state’s approach to federal health care reform since 2011, will become senior vice president at the Wheeler Clinic Inc.

“For the past two years, Jeannette has worked closely with our administration on finding smart, strategic, and cost-effective ways to implement federal health care reform in Connecticut, with the goal of increasing affordability and access,” Malloy said. “As a result, Connecticut has become one of the leading states in implementing these critical reforms.”

The governor added that “Jeannette’s leadership and contributions helped guide our state to maximize these efforts. While we understand why she is seizing this new opportunity, her contributions to the state will long pay dividends.”

DeJesús worked at the Connecticut Hospital Association before Malloy tapped her for the post. Before that, she was the longtime leader of the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford.

When she began the job, DeJesús was one of a small group of people in the state focused on implementing federal health reform. Nearly two years later, the effort has grown significantly, and the changes stemming from the law have become more tangible. There’s a new quasi-public agency, the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, at work developing the rules and structure of a new insurance market, and several committees examining various policy issues related to expanding coverage and changes to insurance rules. The state has received more than $100 million in federal grant funds to implement the health law.

That growth has also included the creation of the Office of Health Reform and Innovation, which DeJesús heads. She and the office were the driving force to create an all-payer claims database meant to gather and provide data on the use, price and quality of health care in the state.

DeJesús also served as a key player in the Malloy administration’s response to the proposed SustiNet public insurance plan. Advocates for the proposal wanted the state to go further than federal health reform and create its own public insurance option; they had viewed Malloy as an ally and were disappointed when the governor did not back the plan. DeJesús helped broker a compromise on the proposal, which included opening the state employee health plan to municipalities and some nonprofits, creating a cabinet to examine potential state health reforms, and the development of the Office of Health Reform and Innovation.

DeJesús said she is comfortable making the move because of the progress the administration has made preparing for the transition into the reformed health care system, including creating the health insurance exchange to help uninsured residents buy coverage.

“I am honored to have to been associated with this administration,” she said, adding that it has developed “significant strategies, policies and collaborations with consumers, payers and providers” that will improve health care across Connecticut.

Based in Plainville, the Wheeler Clinic, provides a wide range of services  addressing mental health, substance abuse recovery, child welfare, early childhood development, community justice, foster care, employee assistance and general wellness.

It serves more than 30,000 children and adults a year.