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Trump's New Acting HHS Secretary Knows the ACA

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President Donald Trump has named Eric Hargan, a veteran health care lawyer who has briefed business groups on the Affordable Care Act at conferences, to be the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hargan, who is now the HHS deputy secretary, will be taking charge of HHS during an especially busy time.

(Related: Greenberg Traurig Partner Nominated for HHS Deputy Post)

HHS is in charge both of federal public health programs and of federal health insurance programs, including

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started 2017-2018 flu season activities Oct. 1.

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin the Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plan annual enrollment period Oct. 15.

  • CMS is on track to start the 2018 open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange system Nov. 1.

The White House has said that the president hopes to release an Affordable Care Act executive order by Friday.

Dr. Tom Price, the previous HHS secretary, resigned Sept. 29, after facing charges that he made unnecessary use of private jets while traveling for HHS.

Trump had named Don Wright, a career HHS official, to serve as the temporary head of HHS.

Track Record

Hargan has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard and a law degree from Columbia.

From 1997 through 2003, he was a partner in corporate development at Winston & Strawn L.L.P. He handled private equity deals, venture capital deals, and mergers and acquisitions.

From 2003 through 2007, while President George W. Bush was in office, Hargan was the deputy general counsel and acting deputy secretary at HHS. (Image: CMS)

(Image: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

After 2007, he returned to private law practice, first at McDermott Will & Emery, and later, starting in 2010, in the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig L.L.P.

Hargan helped attendees at business events understand the Affordable Care Act and other health system change topics.

In October 2011, for example, he participated in a Medical Tourism Congress in Chicago, on a panel discussion about legal issues related to medical tourism projects.

In June 2012, he wrote an article for India Law News about how health care providers in India could end up attracting patients from the United States.

The following month, the Illinois Venture Capital Association included him on a panel of health policy specialists talking about the future of the Affordable Care Act, according to a summary of the article posted by the association.

Hargan told attendees that he believed the ACA individual mandate penalty to be modest; that observers thought some employers might prefer to pay the ACA employer mandate penalty, rather than offering more employees coverage; and that the ACA Medicaid expansion provision could lead to legal attacks organized by governors opposed to the state Medicaid expansion requirement. Hargan also predicted that, if Democrats retained control of the White House in 2012, Republicans would likely engage in skirmishes over ACA funding, without putting much effort into the ACA de-funding efforts.

In July 2016, he participated in an Association for Corporate Growth conference panel discussion on the effects of consumerism on business opportunities in the health care sector.

Earlier this year, Hargan served on a transition team panel for the incoming Trump administration. Trump later named Hargan to be HHS deputy secretary. He was sworn in as deputy secretary Sept. 28.

The HHS deputy secretary post required Senate confirmation.

Hargan said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on his nomination, in June, that he grew up in southern Illinois. His father was a Korean War Air Force veteran who worked as technician at a U.S. Department of Energy plant, and his mother was an X-ray technician, according to a written version of his hearing testimony.

Hargan said he believed his earlier experience at HHS would help him understand HHS, and help him make sure that HHS programs were carried out well and faithfully,

“At HHS, I found in my previous tenure a congenial group of public servants, who are dedicated to fulfilling their given tasks,” Hargan said. “Certainly, in a reversal of many people’s experiences, I walked out of a place of employment, HHS, less cynical than I went in.”

— Read Trump’s Health Secretary Price Resigns Amid Private Jet Scandal on ThinkAdvisor.

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