Over the weekend, changes in leadership structure at HHS received heavy coverage, much of it focusing on the new roles created to oversee the ACA and the implications for newly-instated HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
The AP reports that HHS Secretary Burwell appointed Optum Vice President Andy Slavitt as the new Principal Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday, in addition to announcing that she will be “hiring both a CEO and a technology leader to specifically handle the insurance overhaul.” The move was lauded by observers in the healthcare management sector, although some think tanks like the Center for American Progress had been calling for the hiring of “a CEO for the insurance expansion” before.
Bloomberg News reports that Slavitt will be “second-in-command” at CMS. His former company, Optum, is the division of UnitedHealth Group Inc. that “helped states and the federal government fix Obamacare health exchanges.” As Slavitt will assume control over large parts of CMS operations, Sens. Charles Grassley and Orrin Hatch wrote to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner saying they wanted “to ensure that all potential conflicts of interest are mitigated.”
The New York Times reports that Burwell’s announcement was an attempt “to bolster management of the federal health insurance marketplace and to prevent a repetition of the chaos that engulfed the program last fall.” While SEIU President Mary Kay Henry congratulated the Administration for giving more attention to the healthcare industry, Hatch stated that “I will reserve judgment for now on these newly created positions,” because “I don’t think that the answer to an already bloated agency is to create more layers of bureaucracy.”
Reuters reports that the Administration is working on bringing the best people to work at HHS and could have two senior level positions filled by the time of the next open enrollment in November. As for the technology leader Burwell alluded to in her announcement, Reuters points out that this marketplace CTO would take on the temporary responsibilities of former tech czars Jeffrey Zients and Kurt Delbene.
The Washington Post reports that the positions Burwell announced yesterday are “intended to consolidate responsibilities for the operations” of the ACA marketplace, which is “something critics have urged since the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov last year.” Burwell stated that HHS’ measures “will bolster our team and further instill ongoing accountability for reaching milestones, measuring results and delivering results for the American people,” as HHS will “bring additional operational and technological fire power and have a clear single point of contact in the Marketplace CEO to streamline decision-making.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the fact that Slavitt is from the private sector was one of the reasons for praise for HHS yesterday, despite Hatch and Grassley’s objections.