Monday, November 03, 2008

The Next Administration: McCain's Top Health Positions

With the actual election almost here, we figure we’d provide you with a few shortlists of possible candidates for three key positions under either a McCain or Obama Administration. First the McCain people. The lists are by no means scientific. These are names that have been circulated, brought up in discussions with sources, or individuals we think could end up being candidates based on their experience. Remember, this is just for fun. Without further ado:

McCain Administration

HHS Secretary:

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: The former governor’s name has been floating around as a possible HHS Secretary from the time he bowed out of Republican Primary because of his reputation as a health reformer in his home state. Will his cool relationship with McCain preclude him from a role in the Cabinet?

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: Romney makes the most sense as HHS Secretary for the leadership role he took in ushering in the universal coverage system (with the help of Ted Kennedy and state congressional leaders) in Massachusetts. The program initially ran into serious early problems but now it seems to be gaining in popularity. Why not Romney? As they say in boxing: these two guys just plain old don’t like each other.

Former FDA/CMS head Mark McClellan: There’s only one significant health care post McClellan hasn’t held: HHS Secretary. The reasons for choosing him are obvious: former FDA commissioner, former CMS administrator (implemented the Part D program), leading the way on active surveillance through the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, and chairs the public-private Reagan-Udall Foundation. And he’s respected by Republicans and Democrats alike. The problem? We think McClellan’s best shot at HHS Secretary was during the Bush Administration and he was passed over for Utah Governor Michael Leavitt.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley: The ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee is a reform-minded Republican, particularly when it comes to FDA and Medicare. He hasn’t been talked about much but we think he should be considered.

FDA Commissioner:

Bill Schultz (Zuckerman Spaeder): Although Schultz is considered to be a Democrat, his name has surfaced as a possible commissioner candidate under a Republican administration. Why’s that? We’re not sure, and this one has us scratching our collective heads. However, Schultz played a key role representing generic drug makers in Congressional negotiations over a follow-on biologics bill that barely missed getting attached to the FDA Amendments Act.

Ray Woosley (C-Path Institute in Arizona): The cardiologist is highly regarded by both sides of the aisle and has made a name for himself in the area of drug safety. With his C-Path Institute, Woosley has also taken the lead on one of FDA’s most high profile public/private efforts, the Critical Path Initiative.

Edward Diethrich (Arizona Heart Institute): The cardiovascular surgeon is a prominent physician with a specialty in endovascular procedures and founder of the Arizona Heart Institute. His strong Arizona ties make him an obvious candidate for the commissioner’s job.

Frank Torti (FDA): The FDA’s chief scientific officer and former Wake Forest researcher is only one of two viable internal candidates for the job. Many think he will take over FDA in the interim between Andrew von Eschenbach’s departure and the choosing of the next commissioner. If he plays his cards right, with the administration and Congress, it could be him. But the permanent job almost certainly won’t go to someone from the inside.

Janet Woodcock (FDA): We believe that Woodcock is a registered Democrat (Plan B testimony) but she has a very good working relationship with the drug industry and proven herself to be a good manager of a number of large initiatives within FDA ranging from the Sentinel active surveillance system and Critical Path to Safety First. She could also lead FDA in the interim post-Von E, however, we believe her chances of landing the top spot permanently are incredibly slim.

CMS Administrator:

Former CMS Administrator Gail Wilensky: Currently a senior fellow at the non-profit Project HOPE, Wilensky is an official adviser to the campaign and is on any short list for administration positions. She served a two-year stint as administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration (now CMS) from 1990-1992 under Bush I. We could see her going back to oversee the next complicated phase of Part D.

McCain Advisor Jay Khosla: Khosla serves as a health policy advisor on the McCain team. He served in the Senate as health counsel for the Senate Budget Committee and health policy counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Medicare cost-cutting has been a focus of his public comments.

McCain Advisor Dan Crippen: Former domestic policy advisor to President Reagan from 1988-1989, Crippen could take on any number of advisory roles in a McCain Administration. The former CBO director would seem most suited to the top spot at CMS given his stance on addressing Medicare cost savings above and beyond anything else.

This list is just a start and we’ll surely be adding to it and subtracting from it after the election. We’ll give you the Barack Obama short lists on Tuesday. Then we'll give you our picks, but we want to know: What do you think? Any names you’d like to add? We’d love to see you’re picks. We may even post them.

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