Former Bush officials urge Senate to confirm Obama's Medicare chief

A group of Republican-appointed health officials is urging the Senate to confirm President Obama’s nominee take over one of the government’s biggest health agencies.

Two former health secretaries and four former Medicare chiefs — all appointed by former President George W. Bush — are urging the Senate to confirm Andy Slavitt as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).


“The Administrator’s role requires a strong, seasoned executive able to make sound policy and operational judgments. Mr. Slavitt has demonstrated that ability in and out of government, in times of crisis and calm,” the former agency heads wrote.

All six said they have previously worked with Slavitt and believe “he is able to communicate and work with Congress constructively.” The group is led by former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, who left office in 2009.

The Republican appointees also praised Slavitt for his lengthy resume in the private sector, which they said gives him the deep understanding of health markets that “CMS desperately needs at this time.”

Slavitt was brought into the Obama administration to save after the crash-prone website’s shaky rollout in 2013. He most recently worked for UnitedHealthGroup, and was subcontracted by the government as a fix-it service for ObamaCare’s rollout throughout the fall.

That position has raised concerns of potential conflicts of interest from Republicans such as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators MORE (R-Utah) and Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices MORE (R-Iowa.).

Slavitt is already serving as interim leader of CMS. The agency’s long-time chief, Marilyn Tavenner, stepped down early this year. Tavenner had been confirmed in 2011 after a rocky confirmation hearing, becoming the agency’s first permanent leader in six years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Overnight Energy: California, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule | Climate strike protests hit cities across globe | Interior watchdog expands scope of FOIA investigation | Dems accuse officials of burying climate reports Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Zuckerberg to 'cooperate' on antitrust probes | Dems see victory after McConnell backs election security funds | Twitter takes down fake pro-Saudi accounts MORE (R-Ky.) has not said when he will consider the nomination, though he made it clear that the hearings will focus squarely on the politics of ObamaCare.

“While Andy Slavitt’s nomination will receive thorough consideration in the Senate, it has long been clear that no one can successfully manage a law as unworkable as ObamaCare. The sole focus of CMS should be to look out for our nation’s seniors and the many vulnerable Americans who use these programs, without the distraction of Obamacare,” McConnell wrote in a statement last week.