Statement of Senator Max Baucus on the Nomination of Mike Leavitt to Lead U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the SenateFinance Committee, today expressed praise for the nomination of Mike Leavitt to head the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, while reiterating concerns over the Administration’sstance on Medicaid. The Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, Medicare,the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and welfare, will also have jurisdiction over Leavitt’snomination.
Mike Leavitt has served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencysince his confirmation by the Senate in November 2003. Prior to leading the EPA, Leavittserved as Governor of Utah for ten years, including a term as Chairman of the NationalGovernors Association.
“Mike Leavitt has a reputation for fairness, for seeking consensus, and for promotingprinciples of cooperation,” Baucus said. “I look forward to working with Administrator Leavittas Congress prepares to tackle important health care challenges facing the nation and Montana,including the significant challenges facing the residents of Libby, Montana.” Libby became thefocus of national attention in 1999, after reports linked asbestos contamination from a mine neartown to the deaths of about 200 people in the area. Leavitt made a brief visit to Libby in August2004.
While Baucus praised Leavitt’s reputation as a consensus-builder, he noted concern overthe Administration’s tendency for broad waiver authority in Medicaid, the federal-state healthinsurance program for low-income Americans. “For the past two years, I have raised questionsabout the troubling direction this Administration has taken in granting waivers that underminethe fundamental nature of Medicaid. And while many governors have sought waiver authorityunder Medicaid, in some respects, the Utah waiver has laid the groundwork for theAdministration’s current path.”
During his term as Utah Governor, Leavitt proposed an ambitious health care reformagenda and was instrumental in developing and advocating for the state’s Medicaid waiver,which provides limited health coverage for new populations while reducing benefits for somepopulations already covered under the program.
“I expect that Administrator Leavitt will bring the same thoughtful leadership andmoderate approach to running HHS that he has demonstrated at EPA. I am also interested tolearn more about the position he plans to take on Medicaid waivers, and on Medicaid financinggenerally, when he appears before the Finance Committee.”
Leavitt’s nomination is subject to confirmation in the full Senate after hearings in theSenate Finance Committee.
Highlights of Mike Leavitt’s biography: born February 11, 1951, bachelor’s degree ineconomics and business from Southern Utah University; president and CEO, The Leavitt Group,a regional insurance firm; chairman, Southern Utah University Board of Trustees, 1985-89;member, Utah State Board of Regents, 1989-92; elected gov. of Utah, 1992, served through2003; administrator, EPA, Nov. 2003 to present; Married to Jacalyn S. Leavitt; five children.
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