Former Greenberg Traurig Partner Named Acting HHS Secretary

UnitedHealth was one client

Eric Hargan (Photo: HHS) Eric Hargan (Photo: HHS)

A former Greenberg Traurig shareholder’s star in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to rise.

President Donald Trump announced yesterday that Eric Hargan will serve as HHS acting secretary, less than a week after the U.S. Senate confirmed him as deputy secretary, the agency’s Number 2 spot.

Hargan has held various roles in HHS under the George W. Bush administration and has extensive health care-related experience in Big Law, most recently at Greenberg Traurig. He reported about $250,000 in income from the firm since the beginning of 2016 through mid-February, recently released White House financial disclosure forms reveal.

(Related: Greenberg Traurig Partner Named to HHS Deputy Post)

According to Hargan’s ethics agreement, he resigned from his shareholder position at Greenberg Traurig upon his confirmation as deputy secretary last Wednesday. He resigned in January 2016 from a $15,000 teaching position at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, he stated in the agreement.

Hargan reported that his clients at Greenberg Traurig included Healthcare Billing Systems Inc.; National Hemophilia Foundation; TriHealth; United HealthCare Services Inc. and Virtus Pharmaceuticals, among  others,  health care-related and not.

Pursuant to federal regulations, Hargan has agreed to not participate, for one year after his resignation from the firm, in any matter involving Greenberg Traurig-represented clients or clients he personally represented unless HHS authorizes his participation.

He also agreed to not acquire any financial interest in entities or their subsidies largely regulated by the FDA, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, health insurance and food or beverage distribution.

Hargan declined during his confirmation hearing for deputy secretary before the Senate Finance Committee in June to say whether he would keep parts of the Affordable Care Act, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

“That’s a subject of a lot of dispute here on Capitol Hill,” he reportedly said.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

In addition, in response to a Democratic senator’s comment quoting a Republican senator as saying that parts of the law are working, Hargan reportedly replied that the health care landscape has changed and that “I am not particularly a policy person in this area,” according to the Tribune.

Hargan’s confirmation as deputy secretary passed 57-38, with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, voting against the nominee and urging his colleagues to do likewise, according to a report in The Hill.

“I have no reason to believe Mr. Hargan will deviate from Tom Price’s ideological agenda that includes constant sabotage of the Affordable Care Act,” Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, reportedly said. Former HHS Secretary Price resigned late last month after POLITICO reported that he had billed the federal government for more than $400,000 in private charter planes.

Hargan could not be reached for comment for this article.

Hargan was a partner in the corporate department of Winston & Strawn from 1997 to 2003, when he joined HHS. There, he served as deputy general counsel, principal associate deputy secretary and acting deputy secretary. Those roles included a position as HHS’s regulatory policy officer, overseeing the development and approval of all HHS, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations and significant guidance.

After leaving the government in 2007, Hargan became a partner in the health law department at McDermott Will & Emery, where he remained until joining Greenberg Traurig’s health and FDA business development practice in Chicago in June 2010.

“Eric has a long track record of public service and advising major companies on their most complex health care issues,” Greenberg Traurig CEO Brian Duffy said in an emailed statement. “During his time with us, Eric’s government experience and knowledge proved to be valuable to the firm and our clients.”

In 2014, Hargan worked on the health care transition team for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and later, on Trump’s transition team for HHS.

Shortly before the presidential election last year, Hargan favorably compared Trump to Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States.

“Trump has staked out positions that do not allow him to be pigeonholed ideologically—that makes him more akin to an Ike figure certainly,” he told The Washington Times in September 2016.

Hargan has been widely quoted and published  on various health care topics. In early 2010, he predicted in a National Law Journal article that the FDA would target counterfeit drugs. During his six months in 2007 as HHS acting deputy secretary, Hargan delivered eight speeches on various topics ranging from food safety to what is being done in the United States to prepare for a future flu pandemic.

From some of those remarks, it appears that Hargan is interested in ensuring that all low-income Medicare beneficiaries have access to prescription drugs and that uninsured Americans receive help.

“The solution is not more government,” he said in a March 30, 2007, speech at the Republican National Lawyers Association. “The solution is not a more enlightened bureaucracy. The solution is not some new, improved, government-run plan. The solution is simply more competition. Only competition will lower costs and thereby enable us to ensure access for all Americans.”

Hargan holds degrees from Harvard College and Columbia Law School, according to his personal testimony before the Finance Committee.

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Originally published on National Law Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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