Andy Slavitt

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Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt official portrait.jpg
Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator
In office
January 20, 2021 – June 9, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Acting
In office
March 18, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMarilyn Tavenner
Succeeded bySeema Verma
Personal details
Born (1966-11-16) November 16, 1966 (age 55)[1]
Spouse(s)
Lana Etherington
(m. 1996)
Children2
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS)
Harvard University (MBA)

Andrew M. Slavitt (born 1966)[2] is an American businessman and healthcare advisor who served as the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from March 2015 to January 2017 and as a temporary Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator in the Biden administration. A leader of the team that helped to repair the healthcare.gov website after its initial rollout, he was nominated by Barack Obama to run CMS in July 2015.[3][4][5] In January 2021, Slavitt accepted a temporary role as Senior Pandemic Advisor[6] to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 pandemic response team. He stepped down from that role in June 2021.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Slavitt is the son of Earl Benton Slavitt, a Chicago attorney.[8] He graduated from both The College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1988, and earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1993.[9]

Career[edit]

After graduating from college, he was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. After receiving his MBA, he joined McKinsey & Company as a consultant.[10][11] In 1999, Slavitt founded the healthcare company HealthAllies after the death of his college roommate, Jeff Yurkofsky, from a malignant brain tumor.[12] Slavitt later recounted that the financial strain of Yurkofsky's death led to Yurkofsky's widow and children moving into a spare room at Slavitt's home. He served as CEO of HealthAllies until 2003, when the company was acquired by UnitedHealth Group,[13][14] whereafter he served as CEO of OptumInsight and the group executive vice president for Optum, both subsidiaries of UnitedHealth Group.[13][14]

In February 2008, Optum, then named Ingenix, was the center of an investigation by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo "into a scheme by health insurers to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates." On January 13, 2009, Ingenix announced an agreement with the New York State attorney settling the probe into the independence of the health pricing database. Under the settlement, UnitedHealth Group and Ingenix would pay $50 million. On January 15, 2009, UnitedHealth Group announced a $350 million settlement of three class action lawsuits filed in federal court by the American Medical Association, UnitedHealth Group members, healthcare providers, and state medical societies for not paying out-of-network benefits.

Healthcare.gov[edit]

The Obama administration hired UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit, of which Slavitt was an EVP, to lead turnaround efforts for healthcare.gov after a series of technical issues reduced stability and service during the portal's 2013 launch.[15] In November 2013, Slavitt appeared before Congress to address the healthcare.gov turnaround at a hearing of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.

A February 2014 issue of Time called Slavitt's team “Obama’s Trauma Team”.[16] CMS administrators credited his leadership with allowing the Obama administration to reach a self-imposed goal of providing fully functional Healthcare.gov service by December 1, 2013.[17][better source needed] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner described Slavitt as a “key part of our leadership team to help millions of Americans get affordable health insurance in a whole new way.”

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services[edit]

Principal Deputy Administrator[edit]

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced Slavitt's appointment as Principal Deputy Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on June 20, 2014.[18]

Acting Administrator[edit]

Slavitt became Acting CMS Administrator on March 18, 2015.[19] He was succeeded as Principal Deputy CMS Administrator by Patrick Conway. In April 2015, Slavitt told a Brookings Institution panel that his priorities would include increasing the quality and reach of medical services in rural and underserved urban areas.[20] He also held roles on the Obama administration's Heroin Task Force and served as a member of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot task force. Slavitt remained charged with implementation of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") within the Obama administration throughout his tenure at CMS, and regularly provided testimony before Congress on the administration's ACA implementation.[21][22][23]

In July 2015, Obama formally nominated Slavitt to run CMS.[24]

Affordable Care Act "Town Hall Challenge"[edit]

On January 23, 2017, Politico reported that Slavitt would focus his post-Obama administration efforts on defending the ACA from Congressional Republicans' efforts to repeal it.[25]

Over the summer of 2017, Slavitt invited Congressional Republicans to hold public town halls explaining their ACA votes to constituents. At the time, only eight legislators had held public meetings about the ACA, and Slavitt challenged every Congressional Republican to meet with their constituents and explain their votes.[26] After the limited Republican response, Slavitt organized the “Town Hall Challenge”. He held 16 town-hall-style events to discuss healthcare policy and the ACA before a total audience of over 35,000 people. In January 2018, The Nation magazine reported that Slavitt's town halls were galvanizing public opinion in support of the law, writing, "Slavitt traveled from district to district, often on his own dime, explaining to some 35,000 Americans how the ACA’s repeal would affect them. He took to social media to inform and energize hundreds of thousands more. He worked with any resistance group that reached out to him. And, in the end, he helped to rally the tsunami of opposition that would turn repeated attempts to kill the law into a massive debacle for the Republican Party."[27]

In August 2017, Slavitt told The New York Times Magazine, “If you give me 15 minutes, I can create a common bond around a story of the health care system with almost any American.”[28] His social media activism in support of the ACA has earned praise from former Obama administration officials for its effectiveness.[29]

COVID-19 pandemic response[edit]

Early warnings about COVID-19 impact[edit]

Slavitt was an early public critic of President Donald J. Trump’s preparedness for a major novel COVID-19 pandemic. On February 25, 2020, when COVID-19 infections began to appear across the United States, Slavitt appeared as a guest on Hardball with Chris Matthews to question Trump administration claims that the Centers for Disease Control had adequately contained domestic spread of the virus.[30] Slavitt praised CDC officials who contradicted official accounts of the federal government's early handling of COVID-19:

The truth is finally starting to come out today when the CDC officials are bravely speaking up. And we've got a competency and a credibility problem, which is going to make it very difficult to manage through this. And I think if people wonder, "is there a cost—is there a credibility cost to a president who doesn't always tell the truth?", it really comes into play now.

Two weeks later, on March 7, Slavitt published an open letter to American governors on Medium detailing a potential shortage of hospital beds and ventilators due to COVID-19's rapid spread.[31]

#SaveLives campaign and bipartisan counselor[edit]

Despite being a former Obama administration official, Slavitt pursued a bipartisan approach to COVID-19 response efforts. In an April 20, 2020 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Slavitt recounted the challenges of pursuing a bipartisan approach during a period of heightened political polarization:

If any of us has an opportunity to help—Republican or Democrat, and I believe this virus spreads between parties—maybe it’s a chance to put partisanship behind us...It was reported in Politico I give advice to Jared Kushner and the White House, and I’m sure there are people who sit where I sit politically who are upset. I make no apology. We do what we can if it saves lives.[32]

On March 16, Slavitt launched the #StayHome campaign, an online advocacy effort designed to provide resources for American families, healthcare workers and state and local policymakers combating COVID-19. The campaign was supported by public affairs firm The Glover Park Group. This campaign predated broad lockdowns in New York City and Los Angeles by a week, and included guidance from a bipartisan roster of public health and political leaders, including former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, former Mitt Romney policy director Lanhee J. Chen, and former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.[33]

Slavitt contributed to the Trump administration's initial phased reopening plan, but criticized the White House for failing to follow its own recommendations. In a May 7 editorial published on Medium, he argued that plans to gradually reopen the American economy would increase COVID-19 infection rates if reopening was not paired with increased testing and contact tracing. Slavitt also criticized Trump's proposed decision to disband the White House Coronavirus Task Force while new infections were taking place.[34]

Proposed COVID-19 contact tracing plan[edit]

On April 27, 2020, Slavitt, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and 14 other public healthcare officials and scientists launched an effort to secure $46.5 billion in congressional funding for a comprehensive contact tracing program designed to monitor and control community spread of COVID-19.[35]

In a letter to House and Senate leaders first obtained by National Public Radio on April 27, Slavitt, Gottlieb and a bipartisan roster of public health experts wrote, "The existing public health system is currently capable of providing only a fraction of the contact tracing and voluntary self-isolation capacity required to meet the COVID-19 challenge".[36]

Slavitt proposes spending $12 billion to “expand the contact tracing workforce by 180,000 people” and an additional $4.5 billion to modify vacant hotels for use as self-isolation facilities. A further $30 billion would be earmarked to provide income support to Americans required to self-isolate. His contact tracing plan received praise during an April 2020 interview with PBS NewsHour.[37]

In The Bubble with Andy Slavitt[edit]

In April 2020, Slavitt partnered with Lemonade Media to launch In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt, a biweekly podcast[38] aimed at deconstructing the COVID-19 pandemic through vital information, expert interviews, and a forward-looking message of hope:

What we needed was what I call "50% Winston Churchill, 50% Fred Rogers".[39]

Slavitt, the show's host, was initially joined by his son, Zachary, who served as co-host. The first episode premiered on April 1, 2020, with guest Mark Cuban.[40] Later guests have included Alex Gibney, Chuck Schumer, Tina Fey, Bill Kristol, Mike Birbiglia, Pete Buttigieg, DeRay Mckesson, Gretchen Whitmer, Kumail Nanjiani, Judd Apatow, Larry Brilliant, Susan Rice, Rajiv Shah, Pete Souza, Kara Swisher, Bernie Sanders, Connie Schultz, Sherrod Brown, Steve Kerr, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, and international security expert Juliette Kayyem.[41] All proceeds from listener donations go to COVID-19 relief efforts.[42]

Biden administration[edit]

In January 2021, it was announced that Slavitt would be named a temporary senior advisory position on COVID-19 in the Biden administration.[43][44] On January 16, Slavitt formally joined Biden’s coronavirus response team with the title of Senior Advisor. At the time, he told reporters he expected to serve in the role for four months.[45]

In his public-facing role, Slavitt regularly briefed reporters on the administration’s public health efforts, including addressing public concerns about vaccine availability in a January 27 NPR interview[46] and announcing a $230 million agreement to increase production of over-the-counter, at-home coronavirus tests in a February 1 press conference.[47] He also promoted the administration’s nationwide vaccination efforts in his public appearances, telling CBS This Morning on April 26, "If [the unvaccinated] look at the over 130 million Americans that have been vaccinated, how much safer they are...and compare that to the incredibly modest risk of taking a vaccine", most Americans would be enthusiastic to get vaccinated.[48] Slavitt’s tenure as Senior Advisor coincided with nearly 140 million completed vaccinations, or just under half (42%) of all Americans.

Slavitt received media attention for his nonpartisan approach, in particular for comments in March 2021 praising the Trump administration’s vaccine development effort Operation Warp Speed. "We’re grateful for the work that came before us", he told Fox News. "I would absolutely tip my hat...the Trump administration made sure we got, in record time, a vaccine up and out. That’s a great thing."[49]

At a May 2021 White House briefing, Slavitt revealed that his teenage son Zach continued to suffer serious lingering medical effects from an earlier bout of COVID-19. He cited symptoms including tachycardia, shortness of breath, and flu-like symptoms while urging Americans with families to vaccinate their children aged 12 to 15 as soon as possible.[50]

Slavitt stepped down from his role on June 9, 2021.[51] Upon news of his departure, prominent public health officials including Director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Anthony Fauci praised Slavitt as a "class act" and said "we will miss you greatly".[52] Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb commended Slavitt for "answering the call to service at a critical moment in public health".[53]

Author[edit]

External video
video icon After Words interview with Slavitt on Preventable, June 26, 2021, C-SPAN

On September 8, 2020, Slavitt announced that St. Martin’s Press would publish a book of his about the pandemic.[54] Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response debuted on June 15, 2021.[55] According to the publisher, the book offers the "definitive inside account of the United States’ failed response to the coronavirus pandemic", with Slavitt detailing "what he saw and how much could have been prevented".

Preventable drew widespread praise from reviewers and public officials. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said that the book "comes at a crucial moment as [Slavitt] explains, in accessible and engaging terms, how we got here and what must happen next".[56] In a review for The Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb called Slavitt "the outsider’s insider" while praising him for “bring[ing] you into the room as fateful decisions are made" and doing the "important work of addressing the uncomfortable realities that brought America to this place".[57] Publishers Weekly praised the book’s "informative and often enraging" account of the pandemic's early days.[58]

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, Slavitt married Lana Etherington. They have two sons, Caleb and Zachary.[59][60]

Works[edit]

  • Slavitt, Andy (June 15, 2021). Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1250770165.

References[edit]

  1. ^ @ASlavitt (October 16, 2021). "I just visited France where I had to show this RFID to get on a plane, a train, enter a restaurant or a bar or a hotel" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  2. ^ Walsh, James (October 10, 2020). "Minnesota's Andy Slavitt: An influential voice on COVID-19". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. ...the 53-year-old former health care executive said.
  3. ^ Tracer, Zachary and spunce (July 9, 2015). "Obama Nominates Andy Slavitt to Run Medicare, Medicaid Agency". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  4. ^ O'Donnell, Jayne (February 23, 2015). "Changes at the top of Medicare, Medicaid agency". USA Today. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  5. ^ Cooney, Peter (July 9, 2015). "Obamacare acting administrator Slavitt nominated to head agency". CNBC. Reuters. Retrieved September 8, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "StackPath". www.hcinnovationgroup.com. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  7. ^ Sheehey, Maeve. "Andy Slavitt stepping down from White House Covid-19 response role". POLITICO. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  8. ^ "Earl Benton Slavitt". Chicago Sun-Times. November 22, 2003.
  9. ^ Morgan, David (June 20, 2014). "U.S. creates new CEO position for Obamacare insurance market". Reuters. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Herzlinger, Regina E. (April 9, 2004). Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers, and Policy-Makers. Healthplan. Vol. 44. Jossey Bass. pp. 26–7, 29. ISBN 0787952583. PMID 14969246. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  11. ^ HME News Staff (July 10, 2015). "Obama makes his pick for CMS administrator". HME News. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  12. ^ "Andy Slavitt can't stop: How a health care wonk became a rabble-rouser". STAT. May 25, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Pear, Robert (June 20, 2014). "Health Site Is Changing Supervision". New York Times. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Crosby, Jackie (June 20, 2014). "Optum executive takes federal appointment". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  15. ^ "Andy Slavitt already saved Obamacare once. Can he do it again?". MinnPost. March 23, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  16. ^ "Obama's Trauma Team". Time. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  17. ^ "Resuscitating HealthCare.gov". Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  18. ^ "Optum executive takes federal appointment". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  19. ^ "5 things to know about new CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt". www.beckershospitalreview.com. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  20. ^ "Panel Assesses ACA on Legislation's Fifth Anniversary". AAFP.org. April 22, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  21. ^ Chandler, Seth. "What CMS Administrator Andrew Slavitt Should Tell Congress This Friday". Forbes. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  22. ^ Slavitt, Andrew (September 12, 2017). ""Health Care: Issues Impacting Cost and Coverage": Testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance" (PDF). U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  23. ^ "StackPath". www.hcinnovationgroup.com. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  24. ^ Tracer, Zachary (July 9, 2015). "Obama Nominates Andy Slavitt to Run Medicare, Medicaid Agency". Bloomberg. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  25. ^ Kenen, Joanne; Diamond, Dan. "Ex-Obamacare boss wants to broker a ceasefire in the health care wars". POLITICO. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  26. ^ "StackPath". www.hcinnovationgroup.com. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Holland, Joshua (January 12, 2018). "How a Bureaucrat Helped Save the Affordable Care Act". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  28. ^ Cox, Interview by Ana Marie (August 9, 2017). "Andy Slavitt Wants to Unite America on Health Care". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  29. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Pear, Robert (July 27, 2017). "Former Obama Aides Lead Opposition to Health Care Repeal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 2/25/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews". MSNBC. February 25, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  31. ^ Slavitt, Andy (March 17, 2020). "COVID-19 March 14 Update". Medium. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  32. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. "Obama's health care guru has been right so far about coronavirus. His message: This will be over, but it'll hurt". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  33. ^ Slavitt, Andy (March 18, 2020). "Stay Home. Save Lives". Medium. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  34. ^ Slavitt, Andy (May 7, 2020). "The Economy Will Not Open Up Without a Credible Plan to Address the Public Health Crisis". Medium. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  35. ^ "Gottlieb, Slavitt pitch $46.5B plan for COVID-19 contact tracing, isolation". Healthcare Dive. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  36. ^ Ordoñez, Franco (April 27, 2020). "Ex-Officials Call For $46 Billion For Tracing, Isolating In Next Coronavirus Package". NPR.org. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  37. ^ "How this bipartisan plan proposes scaling up contact tracing". PBS NewsHour. April 27, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  38. ^ "Minnesota's Andy Slavitt both trusted voice, social media target during COVID-19 pandemic". KSTP. October 1, 2020. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  39. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. "Obama's health care guru has been right so far about coronavirus. His message: This will be over, but it'll hurt". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  40. ^ "Lemonada Media to Debut In The Bubble with Andy Slavitt". news.radio-online.com. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  41. ^ "In the Bubble – Lemonada Media". Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  42. ^ "EDITORIAL | Hear from a reassuring voice as pandemic spreads". Star Tribune. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  43. ^ Lee, MJ; Dean, Jessica (January 15, 2021). "Ex-Obama official who helped fix botched healthcare.gov rollout to join Biden's Covid-19 team". CNN. Retrieved January 16, 2021.
  44. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (May 14, 2021). "Biden senior Covid advisor Andy Slavitt says he will leave White House in early June". CNBC. Retrieved June 14, 2021.
  45. ^ caitlin.anderson@apgecm.com, Caitlin Anderson. "Edina resident Slavitt joins Biden COVID-19 response team". hometownsource.com. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  46. ^ "Will Biden's Science-Based COVID-19 Approach Be Enough To Regain Public Trust?". NPR.org. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  47. ^ "U.S. strikes $230 million deal for over-the-counter Covid tests". NBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  48. ^ Andy Slavitt on administration's response to COVID-19 in first 100 days, retrieved June 15, 2021
  49. ^ Leonard, Ben. "Slavitt: I would 'tip my hat' to Trump's Operation Warp Speed". POLITICO. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  50. ^ "Biden adviser reveals son's COVID fight to persuade young people to get vaccinated". ABC News. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  51. ^ Axelrod, Tal (June 9, 2021). "Slavitt steps down as White House coronavirus response coordinator". TheHill. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  52. ^ "Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Official". The White House. June 8, 2021. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  53. ^ Twitter https://twitter.com/scottgottliebmd/status/1402706999738052621. Retrieved June 15, 2021. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  54. ^ "Analysis | The Health 202: Most Americans won't be allowed to get a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it's approved". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  55. ^ Collins, Kaitlan (June 12, 2021). "New book suggests Birx wanted Trump to lose presidential election". CNN. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  56. ^ Preventable.
  57. ^ "Andy Slavitt: "Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response"". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  58. ^ "Nonfiction Book Review: Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response by Andy Slavitt. St. Martin's, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-77016-5". PublishersWeekly.com. Retrieved June 15, 2021.
  59. ^ Pennsylvania Gazette: "Andrew Slavitt, C/W'88, married Lana Etherington in Santa Barbara, Calif., on September 8, 1996" retrieved October 15, 2016
  60. ^ Hakol: Temple Israel Bulletin April 2011 / Adar II – Nisan 5771

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Acting

2015–2017
Succeeded by