One of Vermont's most influential health care policymakers has died.
Cornelius "Con" Hogan made it possible for virtually all young people in Vermont to have health care coverage, and he strengthened programs to improve the lives of children and families.
Hogan strongly influenced the policies of former Gov. Howard Dean when Hogan served as the head of the Agency of Human Services between 1991 and 1998. He was also a founding member of the Green Mountain Care Board and served on that panel for six years.
Dean said Hogan brought an "outcomes based" approach to many state government programs.
"I think he is really the most extraordinary public servant of our time,” said Dean. “He was very progressive but he ... had a business mind so everything had to be documented, everything had to be paid for. And he was just an incredible person to work with."
Hogan first began his government career as a prison guard, and later became corrections commissioner under former Gov. Richard Snelling.
He then left state government in the 1980s to run International Coins and Currency in Montpelier.
When Snelling was elected governor once again in 1990, he asked Hogan to be his Agency of Human Services secretary.
In the summer of 1991, Snelling died and Lt. Gov. Howard Dean became governor. One of Dean's first acts was to ask Hogan to stay on in his cabinet.
In that first year, they worked together to expand Dr. Dynasaur — a program that provided health insurance coverage to virtually every uninsured child in Vermont.
"He played a significant role in the very big expansion that we did of insurance to cover all children thanks to a Medicaid waiver from Bill Clinton, and more importantly to get rid of pre-existing conditions," said Dean. "I mean, that happened in 1992."
Dean said another top priority of Hogan's was the creation of special programs to improve services for young children, known as "Success By Six."
"You could see the number of foster care placements for kids under 12 drop dramatically, sexual abuse dropped dramatically, physical abuse of children dropped dramatically, because of Success by Six," said Dean.
Al Gobeille, Vermont's current secretary of the Agency of Human Services, served with Hogan for six years on the Green Mountain Care Board, which is charged with containing health care costs.
Gobeille said Hogan's life was dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in Vermont.
"I mean, I think he literally woke up every single day thinking: 'How can I make somebody else's life better?'" said Gobeille. “I mean, every day. And that just leaves a legacy that's just tremendous."
Gobeille described Hogan as a person who had very strong opinions on a number of issues, but would always listen to other points of view.
“He could be a tough man," Gobeille said, "but he was always civil."
Hogan was a passionate advocate for the adoption of a universal-access, government-financed health care system in Vermont — sometimes referred to as a single-payer system.
After leaving state government in 1999, Hogan was a widely recognized international health care consultant. At a health care forum sponsored by VTDigger in 2009, Hogan said he thought the single-payer approach could work in Vermont.
"I work now and have worked in places that have universal coverage and versions of single payer, many versions,” said Hogan. “Based on what I've seen, it would seem to be a no-brainer, but it's not — and it could work here."
In 2002, Hogan ran for governor as an independent candidate and received roughly 10 percent of the vote.
Outside politics and policy, Hogan had another passion: bluegrass music. For the past 40 years, he and his wife Jeannette were part of a band known as Cold Country. He played banjo, she played bass, and they both sang.
They played at music festivals throughout the Northeast and for many years hosted a special music picnic at their farm in Plainfield.