Read the tea leaves however you like, but the news that top Obama administration official Steve Larsen is resigning to take a position with UnitedHealth Group is significant.
His position, head of HHS's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, is crucial no matter what the Supreme Court decides regarding healthcare reform. If the court upholds the law, then the CCIO will be under the gun to help states implement insurance exchanges. If the court overturns reform, well, the agency will have lots of regrouping to do.
Larsen will become an executive vice president at United's Optum unit. Interestingly, United is one of the three national plans that vowed last week to keep parts of the healthcare law intact even if it is overturned. That it now nabbed Larsen is a feather in its cap.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Larsen was quoted as saying the reform work was exhausting and that the move was for personal reasons one being the need to pay his children's college tuition.
Various news reports say the Court is scheduled to release opinions today, Thursday or June 25. Larsen, who was Maryland's insurance commissioner before taking the HHS job in 2010, is scheduled to leave the agency in mid-July.
News of Larsen's resignation first broke late last week, the same night that daredevil Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope across Niagara Falls cataracts. Though he didn't need it, Wallenda wore a safety harness. In the end, Larsen may have felt like he was walking over more treacherous waters without one.
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