Members of the healthcare industry praised last week's announcement that Doug Badger will replace Mark McClellan, M.D., as healthcare policy adviser to President Bush. Badger, 51, is a partner with consulting and lobbying firm Ernst & Young, and has a long history working on Capitol Hill and in health policy circles.
"For every critical healthcare debate in Congress, Doug has been there on the front lines," said Herb Kuhn, vice president of advocacy at the Premier hospital alliance. Badger "brings a real connection and understanding of the provider community," Kuhn said.
A White House spokesman declined to make Badger available for an interview, saying he needs time to "get his feet on the ground." Lobbyists and hospital officials contacted by Modern Healthcare to comment on the appointment expressed unanimous approval, although few could predict what it might mean for federal healthcare policy.
Some observers speculated that Badger is likely to continue moving forward with current Bush initiatives, such as health tax credits to reduce the ranks of the uninsured.
Before his job at Ernst & Young, Badger worked in a variety of roles on Capitol Hill and in HHS. During his 10-year stint in the Senate from 1989-1999, Badger worked as staff director of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and later served as chief of staff to Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who was assistant majority leader at the time.
Before the Senate, Badger worked in HHS as deputy assistant secretary for human development services. He subsequently worked in the Social Security Administration, where he directed the office of legislative and regulatory policy. At the administration he also served as executive director of the Disability Advisory Council, which studies programs for the disabled.
Close followers of healthcare politics in Washington expressed confidence in Badger's capabilities.
"(Badger) has the rare combination of someone who really knows strategy along with policy and how to make things happen," said Richard Pollack, the American Hospital Association's executive vice president for advocacy and public policy. "Ask Democrats or Republicans. He's a smart guy who does his homework and knows the issues."
Badger's official title will be special assistant to the president for economic policy, a post that includes membership on Bush's National Economic Council. It was unclear at deadline when Badger will start work. He replaces Mark McClellan, M.D., who has been tapped to head the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee approved McClellan's nomination on a voice vote after a hearing free of controversy. At deadline the full Senate was expected to confirm him soon.