Capitol Correspondence - 01.14.19

Nomination for Top Strategic HHS Position Expires

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ANCOR is sharing this story by Politico Pro because of our general interest in the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The nomination of a Minnesota economist picked two years ago to be HHS’ top policy adviser has expired, and he has told colleagues that he no longer expects to be confirmed amid questions about his financial disclosures, say five people with knowledge of the situation.

Stephen Parente, a University of Minnesota professor and a top Republican health policy consultant with industry ties, was nominated by President Donald Trump in April 2017 to be the HHS assistant secretary overseeing planning and evaluation. The influential post helps set HHS policy. But the nomination stalled after Parente needed time to unwind a series of financial commitments, including a lucrative consulting firm based out of his house. His resulting financial disclosures raised further concerns with senators.


Parente, who advised John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, subsequently became a go-to source for Republicans who were proposing Affordable Care Act replacement plans, helping provide analysis for former Speaker Paul Ryan and then-Rep. Tom Price. Those relationships led to Parente being tapped as Price’s top policy adviser after Price was chosen to run HHS in late 2016. 


The role of assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, also known as ASPE — serving as the agency’s leader on policy development — has traditionally been filled by academics and fast-rising policy wonks.

Both Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal served in the post in the George W. Bush administration before later running for office.

The 120-person HHS research and planning division Parente would have led instead languished without a politically appointed leader, although current staff say that it has stabilized under Brenda Destro, the acting head.”