President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees Obamacare, has some Republicans questioning whether Andy Slavitt’s prior employment could be a conflict of interest, according to The Daily Signal
On Thursday, the president asked the Senate to confirm Slavitt
— the acting CMS administrator — as the agency’s permanent leader.
Before joining the Obama administration last year, Slavitt, Bloomberg reports
, was an executive vice president at UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s Optum unit, a company hired by the White House to help fix the troubled Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, following its catastrophic, problem-plagued launch in October 2013.
In 2012, according to the Daily Signal, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded Optum a contract to build the "federal data hub" which is a part of HealthCare.gov.
The website reports that Optum is a sister company of health insurance giant UnitedHealthcare, which sells plans on federal and state-run exchanges. CMS, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, oversees Obamacare and the federal exchange.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has issued a statement cautioning that during the Senate confirmation process, Slavitt will "need to answer a number of tough questions regarding his former employer and their relationship with the agency."
"Mr. Slavitt’s conflicted history in the medical services industry has produced mixed results and raised a number of serious concerns," Hatch said. "As such, he will be expected to demonstrate that he is up to the challenge and capable of successfully leading the agency through the monumental tasks that lie ahead."
Hatch, along with fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has previously raised the possible conflict-of-interest between UnitedHealth and Optum "as the technology company would likely have access to sensitive information that could provide UnitedHealth with a competitive advantage," according to the Daily Signal.
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