Widely Respected Medical Professional Has Decades of Experience at Highest Levels of Health Care Industry
Providence, RI - Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today announced his nomination of Dr. Kathleen C. Hittner to lead the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, the first state agency dedicated solely to health insurance oversight. Dr. Hittner has been nominated to replace outgoing Commissioner Christopher F. Koller, who is stepping down to become President of the Milbank Memorial Fund, a national health policy foundation based in New York City.
"Dr. Hittner is a widely respected medical professional with decades of relevant experience in Rhode Island's health care industry," Governor Chafee said. "Commissioner Koller – the nation's first Health Insurance Commissioner – has performed with distinction and is leaving big shoes to fill. I am confident that in Dr. Hittner we have found a highly capable and knowledgeable candidate to lead this important office in the years to come. Lieutenant Governor Roberts and I look forward to working with Dr. Hittner to continue leading the nation in the implementation of federal health care reform and making quality health care more affordable and accessible for Rhode Island families and employers."
"The Health Insurance Commissioner is a critical role for businesses, for health care providers and for the future of our health care system," said Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts. "I applaud Governor Chafee's appointment and welcome Dr. Hittner to the health care team. Rhode Islanders can look forward to her leadership as together, we work to reshape the health care system to improve the health of Rhode Islanders while managing costs for businesses and families."
Dr. Hittner earned a BS from Albright College and an MD from Tufts University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in clinical anesthesiology in 1976 at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. She went on to a long career in Anesthesiology culminating in her being Chief of Anesthesiology at both Roger Williams Medical Center (1993-2000) and The Miriam Hospital (1996-2000). Dr. Hittner was President of Miriam's Medical Staff from 1998 to 2000 and served as President and CEO of the Miriam Hospital from 2000 to 2009, during which time she also served as President of The Miriam Hospital Foundation.
Dr. Hittner has been on the faculty of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University since 1979, where she is currently Clinical Professor of Surgery in Anesthesiology. She was the recipient of the School of Medicine's "Distinguished Teacher Award" in 2000 and 2004. She was active in a myriad of professional societies and has held officer positions in many of them, serving as the first female President of the Rhode Island Society of Anesthesiologists (1988-1990) and the Rhode Island Medical Society (1991-1992). Dr. Hittner completed the requirements to be certified as a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives in 2007.
Dr. Hittner has been active in community and business organizations as an advocate for improving the health and economic status of Rhode Island citizens. She served on the Boards of the Rhode Island Insurance Brokerage Corporation (1992-2000) and Rhode Island Sound Enterprises Insurance Co. (2000-2012).
In 2004, Senator Jack Reed recognized her as a Local Legend in Rhode Island for her accomplishments as a woman physician. Dr. Hittner's many awards and recognitions include the Business Women Award for Health Care Leadership from the Providence Business News; the Bryant University Businesswoman of the Year Award; the 2007 Physician of the Year Award from the Rhode Island Medical Society; and the 2007 Banice Feinberg Physician of the Year Award from the American Heart Association, among many others.
Dr. Hittner's husband, Barry, served as Director of the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) from 1995 to 1999 under Governor Lincoln Almond.
About the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner
In 2004, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation establishing the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC). Prior to 2004, the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) was responsible for oversight of all types of coverage, including health, life, and automobile insurances. The DBR now provides infrastructure and expert staff to the OHIC. The OHIC is the first state agency dedicated solely to health insurance oversight. Moreover, the Rhode Island legislature expanded the traditional role for insurance regulation beyond consumer protections and insurer solvency. Such a role, laid out in the OHIC Purposes Statute must balance traditional regulation with policy development. In its full statutory form, the OHIC Purposes Statute states, the Commissioner shall discharge the powers and duties of the OHIC to:
a. Guard the solvency of health insurers; b. Protect the interests of consumers; c. Encourage fair treatment of health care providers; d. Encourage policies and developments that improve the quality and efficiency of health care service delivery and outcomes; and e. View the health care system as a comprehensive entity and encourage and direct insurers towards policies that advance the welfare of the public through overall efficiency, improved health care quality, and appropriate access.