Andy Slavitt, the former UnitedHealth Group executive who led implementation of the federal health law during the Obama administration, has launched a nonprofit that aspires to break through the partisan logjam to find consensus on access to affordable health care.
Called the United States of Care, the nonprofit won’t do any lobbying, Slavitt said, but will focus on policy and grass-roots work to promote solutions that can be backed by most Americans.
The announcement Tuesday came one week after the chief executives of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase said they would create a company to address cost and quality in their employee health plans.
“I think this effort and efforts like the one announced last week do have something in common,” said Dr. Mark McClellan, a top health official in the administration of President George W. Bush who is among dozens of supporters for Slavitt’s nonprofit.
“Health care costs keep going up,” said McClellan, who is a health policy researcher at Duke University. “We haven’t found great solutions yet for making health care more affordable for people by getting the total cost of care down.”
The new nonprofit will have headquarters in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., with Slavitt serving as board chairman. The group is looking at space for an office in Minneapolis, Slavitt said, and expects to employ in its first year up to 15 people across the two locations.
Former U.S. Sen. David Durenberger, a Minnesota Republican, is on the new nonprofit’s board of directors. The board also includes Steve Beshear, a Democrat who was the governor of Kentucky, and Dr. Bill Frist, a Republican former U.S. Senate Majority Leader from Tennessee.
“The health of our nation is more important than any political party or partisan victory,” Frist said in a statement.
Like McClellan, Dr. Penny Wheeler, the chief executive of Minneapolis-based Allina Health System, is listed as a “founder’s council member” at the nonprofit. “I believe this broad-based group, which represents a variety of perspectives from across the country, has the potential to help focus the health care conversation on what really matters most — quality, access and cost,” said Wheeler in a statement.
Other members include Mark Cuban, the investor and entrepreneur, and actors Andy Richter and Bradley Whitford.
During his time at UnitedHealth Group, Slavitt led a high-profile rescue of the federal government’s HealthCare.gov website following its troubled launch in 2013.
From there, Slavitt took a job in the Obama administration, eventually serving as acting director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the massive federal agency that has been responsible for making changes under the federal Affordable Care Act. The law was passed without any support from Republicans.
Sometime in the next decade or so, policymakers likely will make another stab at health care changes, said Slavitt, an Edina resident. In the meantime, the new group wants to spell out goals that most Americans can agree on.
“People around health care are concerned that if we wait for Washington to fix things, we’re going to end up with either a solution that is only backed by one party or we’ll remain in a volatile situation,” he said in an interview.
Slavitt said the nonprofit will support three key principles: All Americans should have an affordable regular source of care; they should be protected from financial devastation due to injury; and system changes must be fiscally responsible while enjoying broad political support.
Many groups are trying to tackle pieces of the problem with affordability in the U.S. health care system, said McClellan, the former Bush administration official. The new group is distinct, he said, “in its attention to connecting with the broader public and its intention to working in a practical way around the country to identify and build support for effective solutions.”