Former executive of UnitedHealth Group's Optum business Andy Slavitt--tapped to be the next administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)--is likely to face a tough confirmation process due to conflict of interest concerns.
After the White House announced President Obama's pick for the agency's newest administrator, discussion began immediately regarding the revolving door that exists between the government and the health insurance industry, as the Daily Caller puts it.
For one, Slavitt will be tasked with establishing rules for his old boss and the nation's largest health insurance company. During his time with UnitedHealth--which reported 2013 revenues of $122.5 billion--Slavitt served as group executive vice president for Optum where he oversaw the delivery of clinical, technology and operational solutions to consumers, according to CMS' website.
Those ties to the industry make Slavitt's nomination "highly inappropriate," Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, tells the Daily Caller, adding that it "undermines the president's own executive order on ethics."
Additionally, Holman says he was worried about an administration decision to issue Slavitt an unusual "ethics waiver" that exempted him from certain ethics rules when he joined CMS last summer as a deputy administrator. Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also has indicated he will have tough questions for Slavitt based on his time at UnitedHealth, FierceHealthPayer reported.
However, Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), a ranking member in the same committee, praised the nomination. Based on CMS' critical role in providing Americans with affordable healthcare, Slavitt's confirmation is a perfect fit, as now is the time to work together to ensure Americans get coverage, he said.
Elsewhere, the American Hospital Association announced that it "applauds the nomination of Andy Slavitt to serve as administrator of CMS," for "he has a deep understanding of the U.S. healthcare system and a commitment to improving patient care."
Slavitt assumed the role of administrator earlier this year after former Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced her resignation.