Slavitt tapped by President to head CMS, readies for Obamacare debate

President Obama has nominated Andy Slavitt for the role of CMS Administrator. Slavitt, who joined the agency in July 2014, has served as Acting Administrator since March 2015. Although the Administration and its supporters are pleased with the nomination, Republicans have announced their intention to question both Slavitt’s prior employment with outside companies that contracted with CMS and the role of the CMS Administrator with respect to the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). The President has nominated Mary Wakefield to serve as Deputy Secretary.

Opposition

Prior to joining CMS, Slavitt served as Group Executive Vice President for Optum, a health care technology company. Optum owns QSSI, a contractor that helped correct problems related to HealthCare.gov and is still under contract with CMS. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have raised potential conflict of interest issues in the past, which they still find troubling. In response to the nomination, Hatch referred to Slavitt’s “conflicted history” that “has produced mixed results and raised a number of serious concerns.” He emphasized that Slavitt “will need to answer a number of tough questions regarding his former employer and their relationship with the agency.” While stating that Slavitt’s nomination would “receive thorough consideration,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) cautioned, “The sole focus of CMS should be to look out for our nation’s seniors and the many vulnerable Americans who use these programs, without the distraction of Obamacare.”

Support

On the other hand, liberal nonprofit Families USA praised the president’s nominations as “superlative choices,” referring to Slavitt and Wakefield as “thoughtful, experienced, forward-looking administrators.” Ron Pollack, Families USA Executive Director, commented, “Mr. Slavitt has played a remarkably successful role in overseeing the second open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act and played a heroic role in the successful re-launch of HealthCare.gov. His actions . . . have consistently been sensitive and responsive to the needs of health care consumers.” The liberal Center for American Progress has stated, “Slavitt will help chart the next 50 years of improving the health care and well-being for the American people; there is no one better for that task.”