Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth H. Roberts was inaugurated as the 68th lieutenant governor of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on January 2, 2007, making history as the first female elected to the position. She was re-elected to a second term in January 2011.
Prior to taking office, Lt. Gov. Roberts spent over a decade distinguishing herself as one of Rhode Island' s most respected advocates for quality, affordable health care for every family and built a statewide reputation for being a tireless leader on health and medical issues. Throughout her career, she has been a leader in economic development and job growth, pushing for cleaner air and water, stronger schools, and increased attention to our disaster preparedness. Roberts served in the Rhode Island State Senate from 1997 to 2007 and received the second highest rating in the General Assembly from Common Cause, Rhode Island' s premier government reform organization.
Roberts has led the fight to ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to high quality health care at a cost they can afford. In October 2007, Roberts launched Mission: Healthy RI, an advisory work group of representatives from the medical community, the insurance industry, hospitals, business owners, labor leaders, consumers, advocates and other stakeholders. This broad-based group has worked with Roberts over several months as she moves the state toward a plan to insure all Rhode Islanders. The culmination of Mission: Healthy RI came in February 2008 with the introduction of the Rhode Island Healthy Reform Act of 2008, Roberts' eight part, comprehensive, health care reform package.
Roberts' health reform work as lieutenant governor builds off of her successful five terms in the Rhode Island State Senate where she led the fight to reform the state' s largest health care insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as co-chair of Permanent Joint Committee on Healthcare Oversight. Her leadership and efforts helped refocus the non-profit's mission to provide affordable health care and increased accountability to the public that Blue Cross serves. Roberts also served as the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
As a senator, she was a uniting force in making insurance more affordable for small businesses by working closely with medical professionals, hospital administrators, insurers, business owners and consumers to find creative solutions. In 2004, she helped create the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner to oversee insurance companies and health care costs and, in 2006, she sponsored legislation to create a public/private partnership to reduce the burden of health care costs on small businesses.
As a vocal opponent of health insurance rate hike requests by the state’s three largest insurers, Lt. Governor Roberts responded to the spiraling costs of health care and the implementation of national health reform in Rhode Island by spearheading an initiative with stakeholders in early 2010. The intensified public effort was a six-session series called, “Making It Work: Health Reform in Rhode Island,” convened with the Rhode Island Foundation and featuring health care experts from around the country.
In May 2010, Lt. Gov. Roberts announced the formation of the "Healthy RI Implementation Task Force" in a meeting with heads of hospitals, health centers, physician groups, government agencies, business groups, and other important stakeholders in the state's health care community. After meeting throughout the summer, the task force released the Healthy RI Task Force Report in October 2010 with recommendations for the state’s decision makers. The report was offered as a guidebook to enable state government leadership to be proactive in implementing health reform, ready to take advantage of the many opportunities in the law that are available to the state, as well as anticipate and address any challenges that will face the state as the law takes effect.
In November 2010, Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee announced that Lt. Governor Roberts would lead the state’s health reform efforts in his new administration. In January, 2011, Governor Chafee signed into executive order the Rhode Island Healthcare Reform Commission (HRC) and named Lt. Governor Roberts as its Chair. Governor Chafee cited Lt. Governor Roberts’ “decades of valuable experience with healthcare-related issues.” As chair of the HRC, Lt. Governor Roberts leads more than 150 stakeholders in developing and implementing action steps, timelines, and assignments of lead responsibilities for all healthcare reform efforts; maximizing stakeholder and public engagement; assuring open dialogue with the General Assembly; identifying and removing barriers to and developing incentives for critical healthcare; and identifying workforce capacity and training needs in the private and public sector. Along with the lieutenant governor, the HRC executive committee is comprised of the health insurance commissioner, the director of administration, the secretary of the executive office of health and human services, and the Governor’s policy director. Under Lt. Governor Roberts’ direction, Rhode Island is among the leading states in the country in its establishment of a health benefits exchange.
Roberts is also a leading voice for expanded biomedical research in Rhode Island. During her first year as lieutenant governor, Roberts released a report on the future of stem cell research in Rhode Island and is currently working to facilitate greater access to stem cells for researchers and patients in Rhode Island through public cord blood donations. Robert has also fostered extensive and effective interstate collaboration through her office' s participation in the Interstate Alliance on Stem Cell Research. In March of 2008, Roberts was the keynote speaker at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine' s annual national conference.
Roberts serves as chair of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, the Small Business Advocacy Council, and the Emergency Management Advisory Council. In her work on the Long Term Care Coordinating Council, Roberts is pushing to expand community-based care for seniors and people with disabilities. Roberts has also focused on the quality of care provided to persons in the long-term care system, bringing together one of the largest groups of medical professionals in recent history to address the problem of pressure ulcers.
Through Roberts' leadership, the Small Business Advocacy Council has focused on ensuring that small business owners have a voice in government. The council includes representatives of all Rhode Island' s chambers of commerce, large businesses and small businesses, which make up over 95 percent of Rhode Island' s economy. The council has focused on the rising costs of health care for employers, state investments in small business development and changes to the fire code to give businesses a voice in the review process.
As chair of the Emergency Management Advisory Council, Roberts has played a key role in working with state emergency management officials and the Rhode Island National Guard to ensure Rhode Island' s preparedness for events like hurricanes and terrorist attacks. Roberts' close working relationship with the Rhode Island National Guard has been further strengthened through programs like Operation Holiday Cheer, the Military Family Relief Fund, and the Garden of Heroes, a memorial honoring all Rhode Island service members who have lost their lives in the line of service since September 11, 2001.
Roberts graduated from Brown University in 1978 and earned an MBA in health care management from Boston University. Before serving in the Senate, Roberts worked as a business strategy consultant, policy analyst, and health care manager. She is married to Thomas Roberts, her husband of over 30 years, and together they have two grown children. The Roberts have been residents of Cranston's Edgewood section for more than 20 years.