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CT health care advocate departs for judgeship

CT health care advocate departs for judgeship

Ted Doolittle, the state’s health care advocate, is leaving his job to take a position as a federal immigration judge. His last day is Thursday.

Doolittle was selected by then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in January 2017 to head the Office of the Health Care Advocate. He started work with the state a month later.

Sean King, general counsel for the health care advocate, will take over Doolittle’s role on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is named.

“It’s really been an honor and privilege,” Doolittle said in an interview. “I think people in Connecticut are lucky to have a team like OHA to represent them in claim denials and other insurance challenges. I feel that health care advocate is the best job in state government this side of attorney general, because you get to help families who are struggling with their health care and you also have a bit of a bully pulpit on health care and health insurance issues, which are some of the most important issues facing Connecticut today.”

Doolittle is a former deputy director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Center for Program Integrity, where he provided oversight of health care fraud and led the rollout of several Affordable Care Act initiatives. He also worked as a federal prosecutor, as an associate general counsel for UnitedHealthcare and as an assistant attorney general in Connecticut, investigating fraud, waste and abuse.

He will start his new role as a judge on Sept. 25.

As health care advocate, Dolittle helped educate residents on referral and prior authorization procedures and the appeals process for health care plans. He fielded questions about enrollment and billing and intervened on behalf of residents in matters of claim denial and pre-authorization problems. He also provided instruction on people’s rights as a health plan member and testified on health care legislation.

While in the position, Doolittle organized a series of talks called “lunch and learn,” where he discussed everything from ambulatory services to the implementation of new health laws and what they mean for the consumer.

“Health care is a human right, and it is an honor and a privilege to fight for Connecticut families struggling to access the medical care they need and deserve,” he wrote in his retirement letter to Gov. Ned Lamont on Friday.

Several legislators and advocates praised Doolittle’s work.

“Health care service and quality has become more complex during and after the pandemic and to have a voice representing the people is more important than ever,” said Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, co-chair of the Public Health Committee. “I’m thankful to Ted for the work he has done to make sure patients are protected and in advocating for their well-being. He stood up to powers who may not have had their best interests in mind and fought for the residents of Connecticut.”

“Though I am disappointed to lose Ted Doolittle as our health care advocate, I am thrilled he will be able to put his legal acumen to work as a federal immigration judge, serving some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” added Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, also a co-chair of the Public Health Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, said the Republican caucus would continue to build on Doolittle’s work fighting for affordable care.

“Ted Doolittle served our state and its residents well. He advocated for policies to increase health care accessibility and affordability while working to improve the quality of care,” Kelly said. “Ted’s commitment to achieving fair and just outcomes for everyone will serve him well in his new role as an immigration judge.”

“I’m grateful for Ted’s advocacy on reducing health care costs and improving the quality of care on behalf of Connecticut’s patients,” Lamont said in a statement. “His willingness to work with all stakeholders to improve access to care has delivered the improved outcomes for consumers. His deep knowledge of the health care system and staunch commitment to consumer protection issues will be missed.”

An advisory committee composed of legislative appointees will interview people and come up with a list of up to five recommended candidates to fill the health care advocate position. Once the list is sent to the governor, Lamont has 60 days to choose someone. If no action is taken, the top candidate from the list is sent to the General Assembly for confirmation.