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Wolf taps insurance chief to lead unified Department of Health and Human Services

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Teresa Miller
Teresa Miller - (Photo / )

Gov. Tom Wolf today nominated state Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller to head up a unified Department of Health and Human Services, proposed as a consolidation of four existing state agencies starting this summer.

Wolf pitched the agency merger in his latest budget proposal. Legislation followed in April to combine the departments of Aging, Health, Human Services, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

The governor said he has been impressed with what Miller has accomplished in the insurance department during her tenure, a role she has served in since January 2015. She took the lead on a number of priorities for the administration, including efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic and helping senior citizens.

She is good at working across the aisle and bringing people together, Wolf said. She also has worked closely with all four agencies involved in the consolidation, and she has experience in many of the areas that the new department would oversee.

Prior to coming to Pennsylvania, she was acting director of the state exchanges group, the oversight group and the insurance programs group in the federal government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Before that, she served as the administrator of the Oregon Insurance Division.

"Early in my career, I fought for state adoption of mental health parity legislation in Oregon, representing drug and alcohol treatment providers, social workers, the Arc of Oregon and other advocates for people with disabilities," she said. "Then, as the insurance regulator in Oregon, I worked to ensure consumers received the benefits of that law.”

Under Miller's leadership, the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance has begun a comprehensive review of insurance companies to ensure they are in compliance with laws pertaining to coverage for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

Miller called the new appointment, which needs Senate confirmation, the "opportunity of a lifetime" and a chance to continue to work on issues she is passionate about.

A combined agency promises to eliminate duplicative processes and boost state service levels, and that, in turn, should reduce costs to taxpayers at a time when the state is facing a sizable budget shortfall, the administration said.

Wolf wants Miller's chief of staff, Jessica Altman, to replace her as head of the insurance department.

The governor also said he hopes to find new roles in the administration for the three remaining secretaries of the agencies being consolidated.

Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy announced Monday that she's leaving for a job in the private sector.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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And yet, I don't see a call from Gov. Wolf to change the mental health care laws to enable people to get their loved ones the care they need.

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