After a 10-month delay, it looks like we may be getting close to the appointment of a permanent leader of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the federal agency that runs the 340B drug pricing program.
News organization Politico said in its Politico Pulse blog yesterday that White House COVID-19 Testing Coordinator and longtime Washington policy player Carole Johnson will step down soon and is expected to be President Biden’s pick to run HRSA. According to Politico, two people with knowledge of the matter said Johnson is in line for the HRSA job. The news organization said the appointment is not final, and that Johnson does not have a set date for leaving the White House and joining HRSA.
HRSA has not yet responded to a request made midday yesterday for comment about the blog post. A delay this long is uncommon.
HRSA plays a major role in the federal response to COVID-19. It manages the Provider Relief Fund, reimburses providers for COVID testing, vaccine administration, and treatment of uninsured individuals, runs the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine program, and works with and provides funding to rural health clinics and small rural hospitals for COVID-19, testing, vaccination, and mitigation.
Johnson came on board at the White House at the start of the Biden administration in January. During the preceding three years she was Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services under Gov. Phil Murphy (D). Before that, she worked for five years in the Obama White House, as a senior health policy advisor and member of the Domestic Policy Council. During her White House stint, she worked on the Affordable Care Act, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, public health matters such as Ebola and Zika, and health and economic security.
Johnson also previously worked for U.S. House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over health care matters, at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) on workforce policy issues, and at the Alliance of Community Health Plans, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the American Heart Association. Neither of the Congressional committees she served on have jurisdiction over the 340B program.
HRSA has been led on an acting basis by HRSA career civil servant Diane Espinosa since the start of the Biden administration.
According to the Plum Book, the list of over 7,000 policy and supporting positions in the U.S. government, the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary picks the HRSA administrator, with clearance from the White House and approval from the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A 2016 transition guide that the Obama administration wrote for the incoming Trump administration did not list the job among the 19 presidential appointees at HHS requiring Senate confirmation.