Person

Andy Slavitt

Andy Slavitt official portrait (link)
Occupation:

Investment Banker

Former Obama Administration Official

Former Biden Administration Advisor

Senior Adviser, Bipartisan Policy Center

Nationality:

American

Residence:

Edina, MN

Andy Slavitt is a left-of-center former health care executive and former Obama administration and Biden administration official who is a commentator on health policy and advisor to multiple left-of-center organizations. He is also notable for his role as a commentator supporting stringent lockdown policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. [1]

In the Obama administration, Slavitt served as the Acting Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) from 2015 to 2017. Slavitt previously had advised the Obama administration’s rollout of the Affordable Care Act and rebuilding of Healthcare.gov while working as an executive at UnitedHealth.

Following the Obama administration, Slavitt led efforts to oppose Republican efforts to repeal or amend the Affordable Care Act and commented on COVID-19 pandemic-response policies in the U.S. as a vocal critic of the Trump administration and supporter of harsh lockdown policies, at one point recommending keeping 90 percent of the workforce at home, including some essential workers. [2] Slavitt was appointed a temporary White House Advisor for COVID-19 response efforts by President Joe Biden, a role he held from January 2021 to June 2021. [3] [4]

Early Life and Education

Andy Slavitt attended the University of Pennsylvania and later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. [5]

Slavitt founded a health care company called HealthAllies and was the company’s CEO until it sold to UnitedHealth Group. Slavitt then became the CEO of OptumInsight and the executive vice president of Optum, which were both subsidiaries of UnitedHealth. [6]

Obama Administration

Healthcare.gov

Optum, where Slavitt was working as executive vice president, was hired by the Obama administration to lead turnaround efforts for the Obamacare exchange website Healthcare.gov following many high-profile technical problems that accompanied the website’s launch. Slavitt oversaw the day-to-day contractor operations between his company and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in an effort to fix the faulty website. Reuters reported that CMS mismanagement and a lack of oversight was blamed for the initial rollout failures of Healthcare.gov that “pushed Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement to the brink of failure,” and Slavitt was described as part of the “emergency rescue operation [that] salvaged the website from paralyzing technical problems.” [7]

Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services

In 2014, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell named Slavitt to a newly created second-in-command position at CMS titled Principal Deputy Administrator that would allow him to continue to work on Healthcare.gov remedies and other programs from within the government as well as giving him authority over policy and coordination between the agency’s programs. [8] His leaving the private sector and joining CMS reportedly caused him to net $2 million from the sale of his UnitedHealth stock. [9]

Slavitt’s duties as principal deputy administrator of CMS included operations and policy coordination for Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. [10]

In 2015, CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner resigned from her position, and Slavitt was elevated to become Acting Administrator of CMS. Slavitt was later nominated by President Barack Obama to be CMS Administrator, but his nomination was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Slavitt led the agency in an acting capacity from 2015 until the Obama administration ended in 2017. Senate Republicans criticized Slavitt’s nomination due to his close ties to the health care industry and the potential for conflicts of interest. His nomination was also criticized by right-of-center media as a sign of “lax ethics” in the White House. [11] [12]

Post-Obama Administration

Following the conclusion of the Obama administration, Slavitt became a vocal opponent of Republican efforts to repeal or otherwise change the Affordable Care Act. Slavitt had amassed a following on Twitter by posting regular updates during his time leading CMS and began to use social media, media appearances, and other platforms to criticize Republican-backed health care legislation. He also accepted a position as an advisor as the left-of-center Bipartisan Policy Center to advise the organization on health policy. [13]

In 2017, Slavitt also launched a campaign in which he began hosting town hall-style events in Republican-held congressional districts arguing against Republican-backed health care legislation. He held events that specifically targeted vulnerable Republican incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections in states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Alaska. [14]

In 2018, Slavitt founded a health care policy organization called United States of Care, which promotes left-of-center health policies and was launched with a board of directors that included center-right and center-left former officials and politicians and healthcare executives. Critics from the far left criticized the group for failing to adequately support single-payer “Medicare for All” legislation. [15]

COVID-19 and Biden Administration

Slavitt rose in prominence after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as a major public commentator supporting aggressive lockdown policies and masking mandates. In July 2020, Slavitt published a Twitter thread claiming that “We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to.” In the thread, Slavitt called for universal mask mandates; closures of bars, restaurants, churches, and transit; bans on interstate and international travel; establishment of no-cost isolation centers at hotels; and a “90% lockdown” that would keep a number of essential workers at home. [16]

After his election, President Joe Biden announced that Slavitt would be joining his White House as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response. Before taking the government role, Slavitt cut business ties with Swiss company Livinguard, a manufacturer of face masks that had sponsored Slavitt’s pandemic-commentary podcast In the Bubble. [17]

While Slavitt had been highly critical of the Trump administration before and after his time in the Biden White House, he credited the Trump administration’s team for its quick work on vaccine development while he was at the White House. Slavitt assisted in leading the Biden administration’s efforts to increase mask-wearing as a preventative measure and with its goal of having a 70% national vaccination rate by July 4, 2021. In June 2021, Slavitt stepped down from his role in the Biden administration. [18]

2021 Book

Following his tenure in the Biden White House, Andy Slavitt published a book titled Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response. The book was highly critical of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response and a Publishers Weekly review of the book stated that Slavitt’s “frequent attacks on Trump give the book a partisan flavor.” [19]

The book covers many topics and makes several allegations, including that Trump White House COVID-19 advisor Deborah Birx had told Slavitt that she was hoping that Biden would win the 2020 election. The book also criticized the Trump administration’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar for overseeing a “series of unforced errors” and quoted a senior official who told Slavitt that Azar was almost fired and replaced by then-CMS administrator Seema Verma. Slavitt also wrote that Vice President Mike Pence‘s communications director Katie Miller in March 2020 had directed that “HHS was not permitted to issue any communication that raised concern among the public” and pulled Azar from a planned Fox News appearance. [20]

References

  1. Srikanth, Anagha. “The US Could ‘Virtually Eliminate’ Coronavirus in Weeks, Ex-Obama Health Chief Says. Here’s How.” The Hill. The Hill, July 27, 2020. https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/509208-the-us-could-virtually-eliminate-coronavirus-in/. ^
  2. O’Dowd, Peter, and Samantha Raphelson. “The US Can Eradicate COVID-19 If We Want to, Former Obama Health Official Says.” Here & Now. WBUR, October 2, 2020. https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/10/02/stopping-covid-19-andy-slavitt. ^
  3. Sheehey, Maeve. “Andy Slavitt stepping down from White House Covid-19 response role.” Politico. June 9, 2021. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/09/andy-slavitt-steps-down-covid-19-response-role-492572 ^
  4. Boodman, Eric. “Andy Slavitt can’t stop: How a health care wonk became a rabble-rouser.” Stat. May 25, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/25/andy-slavitt-aca-town-halls/ ^
  5. Morgan, David. “U.S. creates new CEO position for Obamacare insurance market.” Reuters. June 20, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-ceo-idUSKBN0EV1T820140620 ^
  6. Crosby, Jackie. “Optum executive takes federal appointment.” Star Tribune. June 20, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2022.  http://www.startribune.com/optum-executive-takes-federal-appointment/264001681/ ^
  7. Morgan, David. “U.S. creates new CEO position for Obamacare insurance market.” Reuters. June 20, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-ceo-idUSKBN0EV1T820140620 ^
  8. Morgan, David. “U.S. creates new CEO position for Obamacare insurance market.” Reuters. June 20, 2014. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-ceo-idUSKBN0EV1T820140620 ^
  9. Brodey, Sam. “Andy Slavitt already saved Obamacare once. Can he do it again?” MinnPost. March 23, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/03/andy-slavitt-already-saved-obamacare-once-can-he-do-it-again/ ^
  10. “5 things to know about new CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt.” Becker’s Hospital Review. March 3, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/5-things-to-know-about-new-cms-administrator-andy-slavitt.html ^
  11. “5 things to know about new CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt.” Becker’s Hospital Review. March 3, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-management-administration/5-things-to-know-about-new-cms-administrator-andy-slavitt.html ^
  12. Brodey, Sam. “Andy Slavitt already saved Obamacare once. Can he do it again?” MinnPost. March 23, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/03/andy-slavitt-already-saved-obamacare-once-can-he-do-it-again/ ^
  13. Brodey, Sam. “Andy Slavitt already saved Obamacare once. Can he do it again?” MinnPost. March 23, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2017/03/andy-slavitt-already-saved-obamacare-once-can-he-do-it-again/ ^
  14. Boodman, Eric. “Andy Slavitt can’t stop: How a health care wonk became a rabble-rouser.” Stat. May 25, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/25/andy-slavitt-aca-town-halls/ ^
  15. Anderson, Justin. “Media Embrace New ‘Reform’ Group as Bulwark Against Guaranteed Healthcare.” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. February 16 2018. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://fair.org/home/media-embrace-new-reform-group-as-bulwark-against-guaranteed-healthcare/ ^
  16. Srikanth, Anagha. “The US Could ‘Virtually Eliminate’ Coronavirus in Weeks, Ex-Obama Health Chief Says. Here’s How.” The Hill. The Hill, July 27, 2020. https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/509208-the-us-could-virtually-eliminate-coronavirus-in/. ^
  17. Markay, Lachlan. “Andy Slavitt Cuts Ties with Face Masks Sponsor before Joining Biden’s Covid Team.” Axios, January 20, 2021. https://www.axios.com/2021/01/20/andy-slavitt-biden-white-house-face-masks-covid ^
  18. Sheehey, Maeve. “Andy Slavitt stepping down from White House Covid-19 response role.” Politico. June 9, 2021. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/09/andy-slavitt-steps-down-covid-19-response-role-492572 ^
  19. “Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response.” Publishers Weekly. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-250-77016-5 ^
  20. Collins, Kaitlan. “New book suggests Birx wanted Trump to lose presidential election.” CNN. June 12, 2021. Accessed November 12, 2022. https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/12/politics/deborah-birx-donald-trump/index.html ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Bipartisan Policy Center (Non-profit)
    Senior Adviser
  2. Get America Covered (Non-profit)
    National Co-Chair
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