Herman Departs GIC

Herman Departs GIC
Dr. Roberta Herman and Joan Matsumoto

Forged Working Relationship With Mass Retirees

DECEMBER 11, 2019: Just three and a half years into her tenure as executive director of the state’s Group Insurance Commission, Roberta Herman announced her departure from the key state agency on Friday.

While the 17-member Commission conducts a search for the new director, the agency will be headed by Chief of Staff Joan Matsumoto, who will serve as interim executive director. A career public employee, Matsumoto previously served as the Chief Project Manager for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. 

A medical doctor by training and the former chief medical officer at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Herman became head of the GIC in July 2016 following the retirement of Dolores Mitchell. Mitchell helmed the agency for 29 years and had become an iconic leader within state government.

“I was surprised to hear the news and have to say that I am sorry to see Roberta go. Over the past couple of years Mass Retirees has been able to form a very good working relationship with the GIC. We’ve been able to bring needed focus on issues of direct importance to our members. I credit Roberta Herman with helping to direct that focus,” says Mass Retirees President Frank Valeri. “We have been assured that the work now underway in regard to the Basic Life Insurance benefit, as well as addressing affordability issues for post-65 retirees not eligible for Medicare will continue uninterrupted.

“When she first came on the job in 2016, Roberta was new to public service and did not come from a political or public policy background. Running an agency responsible for 465,000 enrollees is hard by itself, never mind when you add the public spotlight and politics into the mix. But she has been a quick learner, overcome some early mistakes and has worked at forming relationships with groups like Mass Retirees and our union allies.”

Early in her tenure, the GIC embarked on a new contract process with all of the agency’s health plans. While the RFP process with well underway when Herman took the helm, she moved forward with a plan to streamline and downsize the number of health plans offered by the GIC. 

The proposed elimination of three of the GIC’s most popular health plans – Harvard, Fallon and Tufts – resulted in a revolt amongst active and retired employees alike. Within weeks the GIC reversed course and opted to continue to offer the three plans. To her credit, Herman took responsibility for the mistake and led the GIC through the tumultuous time. 

“It was an early misstep in her tenure, which can happen. What impressed us that Roberta was not afraid to own the mistake and reverse course. She took her lumps, learned from it and moved forward,” recalls Mass Retirees CEO Shawn Duhamel. “There is always going to be a tension between advocating for what we believe is in the best interest of retirees and the GIC’s role. At times we are going to disagree. But those fights should never be personal or cause a breakdown in the ability to work together toward a common goal. I certainly hope that this continues in the future.”

Brought Technological Change to GIC

Approaching what would have been her 4th fiscal year leading the GIC, Herman had settled into her role and is able to point to a series of recent accomplishments that will help set the course taken by the GIC for years to come. Paramount amongst these items is what can only be described as a massive step forward in terms of technology.

Through FY 2020, the GIC remained largely dependent on paper and had yet to fully upgrade its processes to operate in a digital environment. This directly applies to the member enrollment process.

Under Herman’s leadership, the GIC has undertaken a substantial upgrade of both its internal technology, as well as digitizing the process by which employees and retirees enroll in the various health plans. When fully implemented, the new system will allow members far greater access to information, along with the ability to engage with their health benefit providers.

The GIC is now in the midst of planning for FY21. At present, no significant or widescale changes in health insurance carriers, plan design or out-of-pocket costs are anticipated for the coming year.