WHERE ARE THEY NOW

Altmire Focuses on Educating Floridians on Health Care Reform

National Journal
Aug. 19, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

Dur­ing his three terms in the House, Pennsylvania nat­ive Jason Alt­mire was a go-to ex­pert on health care is­sues. That’s be­cause the 45-year-old Demo­crat has spent the ma­jor­ity of his adult life study­ing and work­ing in the field. “I’ve been on all sides of health care,” he says.

“Ini­tially, I was on [former Pres­id­ent] Clin­ton’s task force, then in the hos­pit­al in­dustry, work­ing on the [Af­ford­able Care Act], and now on the in­sur­ance side,” ex­plains Alt­mire, who took a job as vice pres­id­ent of pub­lic policy, gov­ern­ment, and com­munity af­fairs at Flor­ida Blue, the Sun­shine State’s Blue Cross Blue Shield com­pany, after leav­ing Con­gress.

Alt­mire says he “had some time to think about my op­tions” after he lost a primary in a re­drawn ver­sion of Pennsylvania’s 4th Dis­trict. “The one thing that my fam­ily and I de­cided not to do was re­lo­cate,” he says.

But the in­nov­a­tion and op­por­tun­ity in Flor­ida’s in­sur­ance sys­tem, as well as his old ties to the state — Alt­mire ob­tained his bach­el­or of sci­ence de­gree at Flor­ida State Uni­versity, and his wife is ori­gin­ally from Flor­ida — even­tu­ally drew the fam­ily south. “It’s been great. We live right on the beach,” Alt­mire says. “My job is to travel the state and talk about the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the ACA, as well as oth­er health care is­sues.”

“Flor­ida will be lead­ing the way, in terms of demo­graph­ics and polit­ics, on health care,” he notes. “In Flor­ida, we have a very eth­nic­ally and cul­tur­ally di­verse group of res­id­ents.” That, along with the age demo­graph­ics, has caused some com­plic­a­tions with Medi­care and Medi­caid in the state, ac­cord­ing to the former House mem­ber.

Alt­mire says there is “a lot of pre­dict­ive mod­el­ing go­ing on” to pre­pare for how busi­nesses and oth­er state in­sti­tu­tions will work with­in the new ex­change sys­tem. “It’s a lot of in­formed guess­work,” he says.

One of the knocks on the ACA is that its scope makes it com­plex, and many people don’t un­der­stand the minu­ti­ae of the new sys­tem. Part of Alt­mire’s work is spread­ing the word, help­ing to edu­cate Flor­idi­ans about the law. “I did an in­ter­view with a pop ra­dio sta­tion re­cently,” he says, “one of the morn­ing-zoo type shows, to try and in­form listen­ers, mostly teen­agers and young people who are more in­ter­ested in Bey­once and the roy­al baby, who don’t know a lot about the man­date.”

But oth­er groups he has spoken with, he says, have been “quite well-in­formed.” Alt­mire says that meet­ings with mem­bers of vari­ous cham­bers of com­merce and busi­ness lead­ers of­ten leave him with the im­pres­sion that people are very know­ledge­able but “have a lot of ques­tions still.”

“I think some of the delays were the right thing to do,” he says. “There’s a lot of change com­ing to health care.”

Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily‘s Where Are They Now series catches up with law­makers who left of­fice in Janu­ary to find out what they are do­ing. It will run throughout Au­gust.

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