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UPDATES with new employer: Steve Larsen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and Deputy Administrator at the U.S. Department of Health and Humand Services (HHS), submitted his letter of resignation Friday to Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of CMS, a week or two before the Supreme Court decision on health care reform is expected. He will be leaving in July.

Larsen had been an instrumental part of the senior leadership team implementing  the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, (PPACA.)

The CCIIO is charged with helping implement many provisions of the PPACA, the historic health reform bill that was signed into law March 23, 2010.

The CCIIO oversees the implementation of the provisions related to private health insurance.

In consultation with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CMS has asked Mike Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform, to serve as interim director of CCIIO.  

In a letter of resignation obtained by LifeHealthpro, Larsen wrote that “After more than two years at HHS I have made the difficult decision to leave my role at CCIIO and return to the private sector. It has been an extraordinary experience to work here at this moment and it has been a particular privilege to do so with all of you. I am proud of all that we have done together to implement the Affordable Care Act and help millions of Americans get access to better and more affordable health care.”

“I have been fortunate from my first day on the job to be part of this historic effort and to do so with all of you has been all the more rewarding. We have great leaders in Secretary Sebelius, Bill Corr, Marilyn Tavenner, Mike Hash and so many others across the entire CMS and HHS team and I leave knowing you are in good hands to accomplish all that is ahead…,” Larsen wrote June 15.

The PPACA Act of 2010 requires state and federal agencies to set up the exchanges by 2014. The exchanges are supposed to help individuals and small employers use new tax credit programs created by PPACA to buy health coverage.

In a letter to staff today, Tavenner wrote about Larsen and his work: “Together we have leveraged CMS’ strengths as we took on these new responsibilities and I am proud of our efforts to hold insurance companies accountable to consumers and our work with states and others to build a new insurance marketplace. His efforts helped to lay the foundation for our continued success and have put us on a path to make sure that these new marketplaces are available to consumers in every state in 2014.”

  Larsen said in early March tha, obviously pending Supreme Court approval of the PPACA law, “every single state will have an exchange in operation as of Jan. 2014, and they will be similar.”

He said the agency has issued contracts for site development for the federal exchanges, as well as creating the data services “hub” that will be crucial as the single point of entry for federal exchanges.

“We are deep in development of the exchanges; there is tons of work going on,” Larsen said. 

Larsen made his comments as the opening speaker at the 2012 National Policy Forum of America’s Health Insurance Plans, being held today and Wednesday in Washington.

Less than a year ago Joel Ario, then director of the Office of Insurance Exchanges at CMS decided to leave his post, after about a year on the job.

Both Ario and Larsen have been state insurance regulators in previous lives, Larsen in Maryland and Ario in Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Larsen then began working with Ario’s deputy, Tim Hill, to manage the exchange development effort, according to a copy of an internal memo sent by Larsen to CCIIO employees at the time. 

One health care lobbyist, not a fan of PPACA, asked  if folk were jumping a “sinking ship in advance of a Supreme Court decision?” 

A Washington healthcare analyst, who asked not to be quoted by name, said this decision does not imply that the Supreme Court has given a heads-up to the White House that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be declared unconstitutional. “The Supreme Court does not work that way,” she said.

Optum confirmed Larsen would join the Eden Prairie, MN, joined firm, but did not divulge his position. 

“We are excited to welcome Steve Larsen to Optum. Steve’s extensive, broad-based experience in health care will further enhance the support Optum provides to the health system and consumers in a rapidly evolving environment,” stated the company, which is made up of three business segments which form an information and technology-enabled health services business.

Optum, part of UnitedHealth Group Inc., sees itself a master in the ‘science of managing data.” it works with  providers  to improve quality and reduce costs and helps, with its parent company, to aid government agencies “drowning in vast amounts of data, high social expectations and enormous responsibilities for health care,” according to the 2011 UHC annual report.

“Our goal is for Optum to excel in execution and service, and emerge as the leading source for a more modernized, integrated health care system,” the report said.

Although Larsen noted a return to private sector in his resignation letter, much of his work has been with the state and federal government. He has worked for Amerigroup Corp., a public managed care company and as a law partner.

At HHS, Larsen served as the director of the Division of Insurance Oversight for nine months prior to becoming the Deputy Administrator and director of the new CCIIO. Prior to joining the CCIIO, Larsen served in a number of capacities at Amerigroup, a public managed care company serving the Medicaid and Medicare populations. 

Larsen also served six years as Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Chief Legislative Officer for Gov. Parris Glendening, and Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission for Governor Martin O’Malley, and was a partner at the law firm Saul Ewing, LLP.

Although Larsen noted a return to private sector, much of his work has been with the state and federal government. He has worked for Amerigroup Corp., a public managed care company and as a law partner.

At HHS, Larsen served as the Director of the Division of Insurance Oversight for nine months prior to becoming the Deputy Administrator and Director of the new CCIIO. Prior to joining the CCIIO, Larsen served in a number of capacities at Amerigroup, a public managed care company serving the Medicaid and Medicare populations. 

Larsen also served six years as Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Chief Legislative Officer for Governor Parris Glendening, and Chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission for Governor Martin O’Malley, and was a partner at the law firm Saul Ewing, LLP.

At the state regulatory level, various interest groups are commenting on a draft of a form review white paper now being developed by a team at the Exchanges Subgroup at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), racing against the clock for review, adoption and state implementation.