Mike Leavitt has turned to two of his former HHS deputies for some of the most important health care roles in Mitt Romney's transition planning efforts — ensuring that his circle of advisers from the George W. Bush administration would have the biggest impact on the early policies of a Romney administration.
Thomas Barker, who was general counsel at HHS at the end of Leavitt's term as secretary of HHS in the Bush administration, is leading the health team, according to several people familiar with the effort. And Tevi Troy, who was a chief policy adviser to Leavitt, has a broader role, leading the transition effort for domestic policy posts.
Both Barker and Troy come to their positions with significant health policy experience and several years working with Leavitt, who was HHS secretary from 2005 to 2009 and is now heading Romney's transition team.
Barker and Troy have been on Romney's team of outside health policy advisers since earlier this year, helping craft the policies to repeal, stall or stop President Barack Obama's health reform law.
The focus in the health transition right now is on finding the people to fill the key roles within HHS, including the secretary as well as leaders of the FDA and CMS, according to people familiar with the effort taking place at the transition team's "C Street" office. There are also many more midlevel political positions to fill in a potential administration.
Several veterans of the Bush administration's HHS and leaders in Washington health care associations have been asked to suggest names for a potential Romney administration.
Troy brings to the table significant experience in the Bush White House on all areas of domestic policy. He's been a Romney adviser since late last year, and has been one of his strongest and earliest supporters in conservative health policy circles. He's known in Washington for his deep grasp of policy and ability to work across the aisle.
He was confirmed in 2007 as the deputy HHS secretary, where he worked on Medicare, Medicaid, public health, medical research, food and drug safety and other areas, according to his bio at Hudson Institute, where he is now a senior fellow. He was also responsible for approval of all regulations, significant guidance and policy.
Prior to HHS, he was an assistant to the president for domestic policy at the White House and at one point led the Domestic Policy Council.
He was responsible for policy on health care, labor, education, transportation and other areas.
Barker, who is leading the health transition team, is known for being meticulous, smart and carrying a well-stocked Rolodex.
Barker was acting general counsel at HHS in 2008, and for three years before that he was a health policy adviser for Leavitt. In that role, he led the attorneys responsible for reviewing regulations and provided legal advice to Leavitt, the CMS administrator and FDA commissioner.
Barker, who is now at Foley Hoag, has loads of regulatory experience, which would come in handy as the Romney team plans to use the regulatory process to undo at least some of the implementation of the health law.
While at HHS, he played key roles in Medicare and Medicaid policy during the Bush administration. He worked on implementation of the Medicare Part D program, played a key role in Medicaid modernizations and was the Bush administration's lead negotiator with Congress on the Medicare and Medicaid pieces of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act, according to his Foley Hoag bio.
Barker was also the regulatory counsel to the Massachusetts Hospital Association before Romney became governor.