Romney Aide Leavitt Advises States to Prepare Health Care Plans
If Republicans in Congress agree on anything, it is their desire to eradicate President Obama’s health care law. But one of the top advisers to Mitt Romney, the party’s likely presidential nominee, has spent the last two years advising states and private insurers on how to comply with the law.
The adviser, Michael O. Leavitt, gets high marks from state officials and policy experts, who describe him as a pragmatist with a voracious appetite for information. But his work has caused consternation among some conservatives, who want states to resist the health care law.
Mr. Romney has named Mr. Leavitt — a longtime friend, former governor of Utah and former federal health secretary — to plan the transition for what both hope will be a Romney administration.
Mr. Leavitt’s full-time job is running his consulting company, Leavitt Partners, which is based in Salt Lake City and has advised officials in Mississippi, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, among other states. He shows them how to set up health insurance exchanges and where low- and middle-income people and small businesses can buy subsidized private insurance from competing carriers. He has also helped states prepare for the influx of millions of low-income people into Medicaid.
Mr. Leavitt represents one pole in a debate among Republicans. Some want nothing to do with the federal law. Others, like Mr. Leavitt, say it is better for states to take the initiative and set up exchanges rather than cede control to the federal government. Under the 2010 health care law, if a state does not set up and operate an exchange, the federal government will do so in the state.
“I understand why some of my fellow conservatives oppose the formation of insurance exchanges,” Mr. Leavitt said. But, he added, “continued inaction by states risks an Obama-style federal exchange being foisted upon a state.”