HELENA — Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.
Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Liz Fowler is an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated adviser, and while I’m very proud of her new position, she will certainly be missed at the committee,” Baucus said in a statement Tuesday.
Baucus, D-Mont., led the Democrats’ efforts in the Senate the past two years to draft and pass a major health-reform bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law March 23.
The multifaceted bill says by 2014, all Americans must obtain health insurance. It provides subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford the insurance.
It also expands Medicaid coverage for poorer citizens in 2014, stiffens regulation of insurance coverage, offers tax credits to small businesses that buy health coverage for workers, revises Medicare payments and increases funding for community health centers.
The measure has been blasted from the political right and left as ineffective or unwanted reforms.
Obama and fellow Democrats have been promoting what they say are positive aspects of the reform bill, while the Health and Human Services Department is drafting many rules to implement to complex measure.
Fowler headed up a team of 20-some Senate Finance Committee staffers who helped draft the bill in the Senate. She was Baucus’ top health care aide from 2001-2005 and left that job in 2006 to become an executive at WellPoint, the nation’s largest private insurer.
She was vice president of public policy at WellPoint, helping develop public-policy positions for the company. In 2008, she rejoined Baucus to work on health reform legislation.
Fowler, originally from Kansas, also has worked for the late U.S. Sen. Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. In addition to a law degree, Fowler has a doctorate in public health from Johns Hopkins University.
Fowler was the keynote speaker at the annual Montana Healthcare Forum in June, where she led discussions on how the health reform legislation would affect Montana.
In an interview with the Gazette State Bureau at the forum, she said “it takes a lot of work to explain all of this stuff,” and that she hoped to do what she could to emphasize the positive aspects of the reforms.
Fowler will be succeeded at the Finance Committee by David Schwartz, who was promoted Tuesday to acting chief health counsel for the panel.
Baucus said Schwartz has served the committee well during his seven-year tenure.
“I’m confident he will continue to do so in this new role, leading the team’s work on critical health-policy issues, including implementation of the new health care reform law,” Baucus said.