Frmr Obamacare Chief Pushes Panic, Tells 360K People Hospital Is Out of Ventilators - It Wasn't


Andy Slavitt, the former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, hasn’t comported himself particularly well during the coronavirus shutdown.

The former Obamacare chief obviously sees himself as a canary in the coal mine.

Fair enough. However, he’s the kind of man about whom you see headlines like this: “We Should Be Closer To Panic Than To Calm: Andy Slavitt.”

This isn’t helpful at a time when Google searches for “panic attack symptoms” are up over 100 percent. It’s also unhelpful that Slavitt is an increased-federalization hammer constantly harping about a health care nail. In fact, his harping was so great that another former Obama appointee making an appearance with him on MSNBC actually rage-quit because of his attitude.

Again, exactly what we need right now.

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Odds are that if you’re familiar with Slavitt and you’re not a wonk, you probably know him from a Twitter thread which began by stating that “[b]y March 23 many of our largest cities & hospitals are on course to be overrun with cases.”

This received quite a bit of play when it was first tweeted, not in the least because of the fact that some of its prescriptions sounded like they were coming from a man who wanted you to panic and panic hard.

Whether or not those alarm bells were entirely called for remains to be seen. However, in at least one case, he’s caused panic about what was going on at one Detroit-based medical group, the Henry Ford Health System, that was entirely unjustified.

Late Thursday, Slavitt tweeted this:

That was what he sent out to his more than 360,000 followers.

As you may have guessed, this claim was false. Slavitt was remarking on this pamphlet, which was leaked on social media:

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Now, here was an idea: Someone decided to ask the Henry Ford Health System about this. Lo and behold, the document hadn’t been handed out to people:

So, here’s how this went.

The tweet was obviously deleted. Slavitt originally tried to play this off by showing concern to the Henry Ford Health System and linking them to a project he’s helping run in concert with FEMA to distribute ventilators and medical supplies:

However, being “a major hospital in the Midwest,” as per Slavitt’s original tweet, they would have become aware of that project even if it had just been announced. This was hardly the point, though: Slavitt wanted to make you aware of the fact he was making them aware of the fact.

Well, that didn’t quiet things down any, as you might imagine, so he explained the deletion in these terms:

Yes, people, “it enflamed a left-right contraversy about how bad the crisis is becoming in major hospitals running low or out of capacity.” In other words, it inflamed a controversy in which the other side is wrong — a side which wasn’t really arguing what he was saying they were, but never mind.

With that explanation also having not sat well with most people, Slavitt tweeted this on Friday:

Oh, and this:

All right, fair enough.

Do you think this was fear-mongering on the part of Slavitt?

There are plenty of other issues our country needs to focus on than heaping invective upon Andy Slavitt on Twitter.

That said, in a moment of declared national emergency, I think we ought to talk about the kind of leadership this showed. While Slavitt is no longer in power, he’s still a thought leader, particularly on the left — which is why what he said is profoundly unhelpful.

Slavitt has established a brand as the angel of panic during the coronavirus crisis. If you’re going to spread the contagion of fear, however, you need to have the facts behind you.

I have reason to doubt you when you talk about a hospital not having ventilators and deciding who lives and who dies when you don’t even conduct the due diligence to figure out if that claim is true.

For criminy’s sake, this man was the former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He couldn’t track down one source from the Henry Ford Health System to confirm this before he went live with the Twitter thread?

If he did, were his sources bad? That doesn’t seem to be the case here, as he lied.

Furthermore, Slavitt’s message isn’t “don’t let up on staying home so as not to effect others as much as possible.” It’s fear fear fear fear fear you should be fearing so hard right now why aren’t you fearing as hard as I am I need you to FEAR I’m talking FEAR here, people!

Everyone who’s listening to Slavitt is plenty afraid of COVID-19, thank you, without a constant drumbeat about how they’re not being afraid enough and how this is just the first act of any pandemic apocalypse movie. He’s not convincing the unconvinced, and inducing more fear in the fearful is hardly necessary at a moment where panic is driving us apart, not bringing us together.

It also doesn’t help when all of Slavitt’s policy prescriptions for this moment in our history seem to be exactly what he’s always been preaching: To wit, we need to concentrate more power in the federal government — particularly at the expense of state and local autonomy — and then shower the federal government with resources.

It’s easy to doubt his motives when nothing has changed in Slavitt’s world but how alarmed he is.

I appreciate that Slavitt finally apologized in full (well, closely enough, anyway) for what he tweeted.

Is it too much, however, to ask him to lay off the panic-inducing rhetoric and the assumption that his opponents are acting in bad faith? That would be a more salient — and meliorative — takeaway from all of this.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture