Andy Slavitt

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Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt official portrait.jpg
Senior Advisor to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator
Assumed office
January 20, 2021
PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byPosition created
Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
In office
March 18, 2015 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byMarilyn Tavenner
Succeeded bySeema Verma
Personal details
Lana Etherington
(m. 1996)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania (BS)
Harvard University (MBA)

Andrew M. Slavitt 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. A leader of the team that helped to repair the website after its initial rollout, he was nominated by Barack Obama to run CMS in July 2015.[1][2][3]


Slavitt 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.[4]


After graduating from college, he was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. After receiving his MBA, he joined McKinsey & Company as a consultant.[5][6] In 1999, Slavitt founded the healthcare company HealthAllies after the death of his college roommate, Jeff Yurkofsky, from a malignant brain tumor.[7] 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,[8][9] whereafter he served as CEO of OptumInsight and the group executive vice president for Optum, both subsidiaries of UnitedHealth Group.[8][9][edit]

The Obama administration hired UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit, of which Slavitt was an EVP, to lead turnaround efforts for after a series of technical issues reduced stability and service during the portal's 2013 launch.[10] In November 2013, Slavitt appeared before Congress to address the 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”.[11] CMS administrators credited his leadership with allowing the Obama administration to reach a self-imposed goal of providing fully functional service by December 1, 2013.[12][better source needed] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marily 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.[13]

Acting Administrator[edit]

Slavitt became Acting CMS Administrator on March 18, 2015.[14] 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.[15] 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.[16][17][18]

In July 2015, Obama formally nominated Slavitt to run CMS.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21] 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."[22]

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.”[23] His social media activism in support of the ACA has earned praise from former Obama administration officials for its effectiveness.[24]

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 coronavirus outbreak. 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.[25] 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.[26]

#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.[27]

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. 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.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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".[31]

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.[32]

In The Bubble with Andy Slavitt[edit]

In April 2020, Slavitt partnered with Lemonada Media to launch In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt, a biweekly podcast[33] aimed at deconstructing the COVID-19 epidemic 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".[34]

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.[35] 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.[36] All proceeds from listener donations go to COVID-19 relief efforts.[37]

Biden administration[edit]

In January 2021, it was reported that Slavitt was expected to be named to a temporary senior advisory position on COVID-19 in the Biden administration.[38]

Personal life[edit]

In 1996, Slavitt married Lana Etherington. They have two sons, Caleb and Zachary.[39][40]


  1. ^ Tracer, Zachary and spunce (July 9, 2015). "Obama Nominates Andy Slavitt to Run Medicare, Medicaid Agency". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  2. ^ O'Donnell, Jayne (February 23, 2015). "Changes at the top of Medicare, Medicaid agency". USA Today. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  3. ^ Cooney, Peter (July 9, 2015). "Obamacare acting administrator Slavitt nominated to head agency". CNBC. Reuters. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  4. ^ Morgan, David (June 20, 2014). "U.S. creates new CEO position for Obamacare insurance market". Reuters. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. ^ Herzlinger, Regina E. (April 9, 2004). Consumer-Driven Health Care: Implications for Providers, Payers, and Policy-Makers. Healthplan. 44. Jossey Bass. pp. 26–7, 29. ISBN 0787952583. PMID 14969246. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  6. ^ HME News Staff (July 10, 2015). "Obama makes his pick for CMS administrator". HME News. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Andy Slavitt can't stop: How a health care wonk became a rabble-rouser". STAT. 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  8. ^ a b Pear, Robert (June 20, 2014). "Health Site Is Changing Supervision". New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  9. ^ a b Crosby, Jackie (June 20, 2014). "Optum executive takes federal appointment". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Andy Slavitt already saved Obamacare once. Can he do it again?". MinnPost. 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  11. ^ "Obama's Trauma Team". Time. Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  12. ^ "Resuscitating". Retrieved 2020-05-15.
  13. ^ "Optum executive takes federal appointment". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  14. ^ "5 things to know about new CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt". Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  15. ^ "Panel Assesses ACA on Legislation's Fifth Anniversary". April 22, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  16. ^ Chandler, Seth. "What CMS Administrator Andrew Slavitt Should Tell Congress This Friday". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "StackPath". Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  19. ^ Tracer, Zachary (July 9, 2015). "Obama Nominates Andy Slavitt to Run Medicare, Medicaid Agency". Bloomberg. Retrieved May 18, 2020.
  20. ^ Kenen, Joanne; Diamond, Dan. "Ex-Obamacare boss wants to broker a ceasefire in the health care wars". POLITICO. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  21. ^ "StackPath". Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  22. ^ Holland, Joshua (2018-01-12). "How a Bureaucrat Helped Save the Affordable Care Act". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  23. ^ Cox, Interview by Ana Marie (2017-08-09). "Andy Slavitt Wants to Unite America on Health Care". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  24. ^ Shear, Michael D.; Pear, Robert (2017-07-27). "Former Obama Aides Lead Opposition to Health Care Repeal". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-22.
  25. ^ "Coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 2/25/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews". MSNBC. 2020-02-25. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  26. ^ Slavitt, Andy (2020-03-17). "COVID-19 March 14 Update". Medium. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  27. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. "Obama's health care guru has been right so far about coronavirus. His message: This will be over, but it'll hurt". Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  28. ^ Slavitt, Andy (2020-03-18). "Stay Home. Save Lives". Medium. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  29. ^ Slavitt, Andy (2020-05-07). "The Economy Will Not Open Up Without a Credible Plan to Address the Public Health Crisis". Medium. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  30. ^ "Gottlieb, Slavitt pitch $46.5B plan for COVID-19 contact tracing, isolation". Healthcare Dive. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  31. ^ "Ex-Officials Call For $46 Billion For Tracing, Isolating In Next Coronavirus Package". Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  32. ^ "How this bipartisan plan proposes scaling up contact tracing". PBS NewsHour. 2020-04-27. Retrieved 2020-05-19.
  33. ^ "Minnesota's Andy Slavitt both trusted voice, social media target during COVID-19 pandemic". KSTP. 2020-10-01. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  34. ^ Borrelli, Christopher. "Obama's health care guru has been right so far about coronavirus. His message: This will be over, but it'll hurt". Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  35. ^ "Lemonada Media to Debut In The Bubble with Andy Slavitt". Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  36. ^ "In the Bubble – Lemonada Media". Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  37. ^ "EDITORIAL | Hear from a reassuring voice as pandemic spreads". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2020-12-01.
  38. ^ Lee, MJ; Dean, Jessica (15 January 2021). "Ex-Obama official who helped fix botched rollout to join Biden's Covid-19 team". CNN. Retrieved 2021-01-16.
  39. ^ Pennsylvania Gazette: "Andrew Slavitt, C/W'88, married Lana Etherington in Santa Barbara, Calif., on September 8, 1996" retrieved October 15, 2016
  40. ^ Hakol: Temple Israel Bulletin April 2011 / Adar II – Nisan 5771

External links[edit]

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

Succeeded by
Seema Verma