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.