Federal Insurance Regulator Leaving CMS
Key Development: CCIIO Director Steve Larsen stepping down in mid-July
to become executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit.
Next Step: CCIIO Office of Health Reform Director Mike Hash will be
interim director until permanent successor is found.
By Sara Hansard
Steve Larsen, director of the federal office in charge of regulating health
insurance under the reform law, will step down from his position in mid-July,
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acting Administrator Marilyn
Tavenner told agency employees in a June 15 email.
Mike Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform in the Department of
Health and Human Services, will be interim director of the Center for Consumer
Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) while a permanent successor is found
for Larsen, who is director of CCIIO and deputy administrator of CMS.
Tavenner told agency employees, “Steve and I have worked closely over the
past year in our efforts to incorporate the work of CCIIO into CMS. 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.” Larsen's
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,” she said.
Larsen will be executive vice president at Optum, a health services and
information technology company that is part of UnitedHealth Group Inc., of
Minnetonka, Minn., the company confirmed. UnitedHealth Group is the parent
company of UnitedHealthcare, the largest health insurer in the United States in
terms of policyholders and revenues.
“We are excited to welcome Steve Larsen to Optum,” company spokesman Matthew
Stearns told BNA in an email. “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.”
Larsen became director of CCIIO in 2011 when the unit was reorganized and
moved into CMS, as HHS implemented the health insurance regulation provisions of
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He had previously been director
of the Division of Insurance Oversight in the HHS office that was the
predecessor to CCIIO.
Larsen has led CCIIO during the early phase of implementing PPACA, which was
signed into law in 2010. During his tenure, CCIIO has issued numerous
regulations, including the controversial decision to require entities affiliated
with religious organizations, such as religious hospitals and schools, to cover
contraceptive services without requiring cost sharing.
The Catholic Health Association June 15 sent a letter to Tavenner
objecting to the contraceptive coverage regulation, specifically a March advance
notice of proposed rulemaking on preventive services (CMS-9968-ANPRM) under the
health reform law (see previous article). CHA asked that CMS “at the very
least” expand the definition of a religious employer to make clear that Catholic
hospitals and health care organizations are exempt from the contraceptive
mandate (see related article).
The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the constitutionality of
PPACA by the end of June.
Prior to joining the Obama administration to implement PPACA, Larsen served
in a number of capacities at Amerigroup Corp., a public managed care company
serving Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries, according to his biography on the
CCIIO website. Larsen also was Maryland insurance commissioner for six years,
chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D),
and a partner with law firm Saul Ewing LLP.
“Steve did a remarkable job implementing massive changes in our health
insurance system and took a lot of abuse as the point person for
implementation,” Washington and Lee University Law Professor Timothy Jost told
BNA in an email. “I will miss him.”
Opponents of PPACA linked Larsen's departure with difficulties in
implementing the law. “ObamaCare--the president's signature domestic
achievement--utterly depends on each state having a health insurance 'exchange'
up and running by 2014,” Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at
the Cato Institute, told BNA in an email. “Larsen's office is supposed to create
15 or 30 or more of these new government bureaucracies with exactly no money. I
would resign too,” he said.
The letter from the Catholic Health Association is at http://op.bna.com/hl.nsf/r?Open=bbrk-8varev.