• Tough Confirmation Fight for Andrew Slavitt Expected

    Andrew Slavitt, acting interim administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is going to have a rough road to Senate confirmation. He was nominated by President Obama to be confirmed as Administrator of the branch of the federal government that oversees Obamacare. Because of his numerous appearances of conflicts-of-interest, Senators are expected to grill him about his work before he entered government service and wh.

    CMS has jurisdiction over the state-based exchanges and the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, created under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. One worry is that Slavitt may be guilty of cronyism and conflicts of interest in his administration of Obamacare.

    More than one dozen failed state exchanges have cost taxpayers more than $4.8 billion. Those failures lead Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to send a letter to Slavitt on June 15 of this year asking for documents regarding the Cover Oregon state exchange. Three senators, including Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and John Barrasso (R-WY) also sent a letter to Slavitt asking several detailed questions about the failures of state-based Obamacare exchanges. To date, all of the documents have not been produced and Senators will want to know the details of that scandal from Slavitt.

    Before his appointment in July of 2014, Slavitt had been group executive vice president of Optum, a company owned by UnitedHealth Group. Prior to that, he has been CEO of UnitedHealth’s Ingenix company as well as part of the “tech surge” effort to fix the federal government’s HealthCare.gov site when it was failing. UnitedHealth is the largest carried or Medicare Advantage plans. The Obam Administration granted Slavitt an ethics waiver so he could step up to the role as acting administrator of CMS, yet some in the Senate worry that his conflicts of interest are

    Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was quoted in Modern Healthcare as saying “Mr. Slavitt’s conflicted history in the medical services industry has produced mixed results and raised a number of serious concerns. As such, he will be expected to demonstrate that he is up to the challenge and capable of successfully leading the agency through the monumental tasks that lie ahead. Most importantly, Mr. Slavitt will need to answer a number of tough questions regarding his former employer and their relationship with the agency.”

    The waiver was like a lotto payout to Slavitt, because he personally pocketed $4.8 million in tax-free income from health care companies, The Daily Caller reported. The sale of health care stock netted Slavitt yet another $2.4 million in income from his work for health care companies. That smells of a conflict of interest where he will have dominion over decisions that impact companies that paid him millions.

    CMS needs an administrator who can run it in an objective and independent manner to serve the taxpayers, not the special interests that stand to make billions from the federal programs it administers. The taxpayers deserve nothing less, and someone who is as connected as Andrew Slavitt is to those interests, should be the among the last choices to be appointed and confirmed to head up CMS.

    Dean Chambers, inspired by the ideas of freedom and the principles of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, is an independent journalist, founding and editing two independent newspapers while in college.

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