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Andy Slavitt has spent much of 2020 talking with almost everybody who knows anything about the COVID-19 pandemic — and sharing what he learns in real time, first on Twitter, then on his pandemic podcast, “In the Bubble.

To do our own podcast episode about what we’ve learned so far and what we might expect next, Slavitt was the person to speak with.

He is a former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the final years of the Obama administration.

Slavitt shared some of the cost-side realities of vaccines and testing. Then there was an uncomfortable guest-host moment about the characterization of his role as founder of a venture capital firm — before the conversation got back on track and he shared thoughts on the role of profit and health care.

“We’ve created some of the worst excesses, and we’re not getting the basic job done. Health care is not affordable to people,” Slavitt said.

Given the choice, he said, he would pick a health system that covers everybody even if it were a little worse than the current system, versus one that is very expensive and leaves many people without health care. 

“I’d be, ‘I’m all over the socialist side,’” he said. “If you asked me, though, what do I think are the ingredients to a successful health care system? I would say it includes innovation.”

“An Arm and a Leg” is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

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Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


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Dan Weissmann

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.