Saturday, June 26, 2010

First week at HHS

I was walking to meet a friend for a drink and it ocurree to me that the Founding Fathers weren't as smart as they are made out to be. I understand that it was important to put the Capitol somewhere in between the North and the South and they found this swamp on which cto build a new city. But as I was trudging through the 95 degree 90% humidity, reaching my destination with my shirt soaked through, I thought, "Why didn't they put the Capitol in Washington in the Spring and Fall, Florida in the winter, and New Hampshire in the Summer?". It would have been even better from the point of view of regionalism, and sure would be a lot more pleasant. Of course as the country grew westward, we could have had capitals in Chicago, St Louis, Denver and SF as well. Perhaps there'd be some benefit in not having the federal government so far away from most of the people . . . .

I just finished my first week at my new job. For those of you who missed it, here's the full job title, for the last time. Take a deep breath: Director, Division of Enforcement, Office of Oversight, Office of Consumer Informarion and Insurance Oversight (OCIIO) Office of the Secretary (OS), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Whew!

I spent a good part of the week interviewing candidates for the fourteen (plus or minus) attorney positions that I'll have reporting up to me. And I'm pleased to say that I've made some excellent progress--including some candidates who were already in progress, I've got one hire and offers out to five others. Not bad for one week! I've got some more interviews scheduled, but if you know any lawyers who want to be a part of history, tell 'em to send me their resumes.

I learned that the Office is moving in July to a commercial office building in Bethesda. At first I was a bit bummed that we will be away from headquarters and Capitol Hill, but that feeling only lasted until I saw where they have me sitting now, about which the less said the better. I've posted photos of the Humphrey Building and of the new digs, across the street from the Bethesda Metro Station. I'm told I'll have a window, and everything.

I'm now immersed in a process that's been going on here for several months now, of figuring out how we're going to interpret and enforce this law. There are countless decisions to be made, scores of people, within our office, elsewhere in the government, in state government, and among "stakeholders" (industry, consumer groups, etc) who are involved in one way or another in making them, and very little time. The law goes into effect September 23, and we've got to be ready to enforce it from Day 1. Much of the enforcement will ultimately be done by the state insurance departments, but we will have some direct enforcement and will also have to be making determinations as to whether the states are "substantially enforcing" the law. It is daunting, exciting. I feel trust I'm in the right place at the right time and that everything I've done until now has prepared me for this moment. I guess we'll see whether I'm right about that, won't we?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The next phase of the journey . . . .

It is with a mix of excitement, pride, anxiety, hope and fear that I report that as of June 21 I will be taking the position as the (first) Director of Enforcement in the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight in the Department of Health and Human Services. Quite a mouthful, I know. I will be responsible for enforcing the provisions of the health care reform law that impact the insurance companies. I'm expecting a ride every bit as wild as when I went to the CPUC during the energy crisis.

Probably needless to say, but I am extremely pleased and stunned that my move to DC has worked out as well and as quickly as it has. Come visit!