Jeffrey Zients is reportedly set to become President Joe Biden’s next chief of staff. He has a history of allegedly building wealth through questionable business practices, and helping to guide federal healthcare policy.
Zients was most recently the Coronavirus Response Coordinator at the Biden White House, from April 2022 until the president’s inauguration. Zients served as the leader of many healthcare companies that were fined millions of dollars for fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, as first reported in the American Prospect.
Zients was appointed by the Obama team to fix Healthcare.gov, an online Affordable Care Act exchange, prior to his time in the Biden White House. Some critics accused Zients of being in conflict of interest because of his stake in Pediatric Services of America Healthcare, (PSA Healthcare), which provides pediatric home care services, The New York Times reported.
Portfolio Logic, an investment company founded by Zients and holding a stake in PSA Healthcare, was ordered to pay $6.88million by the Justice Department for defrauding Medicare & Medicaid and violating state regulations regarding payment claims. According to the DOJ, PSA had misrepresented the duration of certain services that are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and failed to repay overpayments.
Portfolio Logic also owned a share in Amedisys Home Health Companies. They settled with the DOJ in 2014 for $150 million for Medicare fraud. The American Prospect reported.
Zients was most recently the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. He also helped to start Wall Street investment company Cranemere. Cranemere bought several healthcare companies that were accused of medical malpractice and surprise billing. NorthStar is one such company, with a reputation of surprising patients with large bills for out-of-network healthcare.
The NY Times reported that Zients also made stops on his way to the White House. He was a member the Facebook board of directors from 2018-2020 and a consultant at Bain & Company. ABC News reported that Zients’ net worth is somewhere between $89 million to $443 million according to financial disclosures last year.
Klain’s endorsement was a major factor in Zients being nominated to succeed the outgoing White House chief staff Ron Klain. Klain was the Obama administration’s chief of staff in 2015 and 2014 to fight the Ebola epidemic. Perhaps Klain has a special fondness for Zients who he led for nearly a year and half as the COVID-19 response.
This response effort was not without its challenges. After the Trump administration developed the shots through Operation Warp Speed, the Biden administration was able quickly to distribute COVID-19 vaccinations to the majority of Americans. Zients was also criticised for not easing travel restrictions in summer 2021.
Many Republicans were angered by his warning that Americans who are not vaccinated will face a “winter full of severe illness and death” beginning in December 2021.
Klain, the longest-serving chief of staff for a Democratic president in history, leaves his position.