Gov. Asa Hutchinson has named Cindy Gillespie, a former health care advisor to Mitt Romney, as the director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services. She’ll start work March 1, replacing outgoing DHS director John Selig.
Gillespie’s LinkedIn profile says she was counselor to Gov. Romney from 2003 to 2006, which is when “Romneycare” was passed into law in Massachusetts. A press release from Hutchinson’s office said she “[played] a leading role in the development of Massachusetts health reforms.” She also served as senior advisor on Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign (although it appears she didn’t work on his 2012 bid, she did author this blog post in 2012 urging women to give Mitt a chance.)
Since 2007, Gillespie has worked as a health care consultant at a couple of major DC law firms, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP and Dentons.
Before anyone starts panicking about Gillespie being a Republican hired gun ready to take down the private option, recall the fact that Obamacare was essentially based off of Romney’s Massachusetts law — a fact that led to endless rhetorical contortions for Romney on the 2012 campaign trail, but that he himself admitted to be true last year. Paul Krugman wrote a column last October lamenting the fact that — because hatred for the Affordable Care Act has become a prerequisite for any GOP politician with national ambitions — “Mr. Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.”
In other words: A DHS director that presided over the creation of Romneycare is probably not a bad thing for the future of Medicaid expansion. But we’ll see.
From a press release:
Governor Hutchinson issued the following statement on Gillespie:
“After a national search and after interviewing a number of top candidates, I am confident that Cindy Gillespie has the breadth of experience, management capabilities and the right ideas to lead Arkansas’s largest agency. She has nationally recognized expertise in the reform of Medicaid and she has extensive experience in managing complex programs. Most importantly she has the heart and passion that is needed for an agency which is on the frontline of critical services that make a difference in the lives of Arkansans every day.”
Gillespie issued the following statement upon the Governor’s announcement:
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to join the impressive team Governor Hutchinson has brought together to serve the people of Arkansas. I am looking forward to working with the highly dedicated and capable employees at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, along with our partners throughout the state, to promote the health and well-being of all Arkansans, especially those most in need.”
Cindy Gillespie is a nationally recognized thought-leader in health policy and brings significant experience working at both the federal and state levels. Ms. Gillespie served as a senior advisor to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, where she led the Commonwealth of Massachusetts interactions with the federal government and oversaw development and implementation of the Administration’s executive branch initiatives, including playing a leading role in the development of Massachusetts health reforms. Her writings on health policy issues have appeared in numerous national publications.