James “Mad Dog” Mattis could turn out to be a major stealth player in health policy.
Donald Trump, the president-elect, announced Tuesday that Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general who has served in combat in the Persian Gulf War, in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War, will be his pick to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.
Mattis spent 44 years in the Marine Corps. When he retired in 2013, he was the commander of the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, where he oversaw more than 200,000 members of the U.S. armed services serving in the Middle East.
Mattis has a bachelor’s degree in history from Central Washington University.
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Earlier, Trump said he will make Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., his nominee to be the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Steven Mnuchin, a film finance company executive, to be the secretary of the Treasury Department.
At press time, Trump had not yet announced the name of his pick to be the next Labor secretary.
Here are some reasons why, if Mattis is confirmed, he could end up being another shaper of how the United States goes about starting a new chapter in efforts to improve its health care and health finance systems:
1. Job-related needs
As Defense secretary, Mattis would be the head of one of the biggest buyers of employee health benefits and retiree health benefits in the world.
Health care and health insurance for active-duty military personnel and their dependents cost the Defense Department about $41 billion in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, or about 7.7 percent of the department’s discretionary base budget, and the department also contributes to a fund that’s supposed to supplement health benefits for military retirees who are eligible for Medicare.
Mattis would also run an organization that depends heavily on the health of the U.S. population.
In the past, one argument for reforming the health care and health finance systems has been that obesity, lack of exercise and other public health problems have been hurting the military’s ability to find qualified recruits.