Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Revolving Door : Sharon Lewis from the Administration on Community Living moves on to a private sector consulting firm

Sharon Lewis, like so many government appointees before her, has left her job at the federal Administration on Community Living (ACL) and has moved on to a position in a private sector consulting firm. The ACL is an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers programs for people with disabilities and older adults. Her departure from the agency was announced in December 2015. She is now employed by a Healthcare consulting and research firm called Health Management Associates.

Sharon Lewis was the Principal Deputy Administrator and co-founder of the Administration on Community Living. She has collaborated with multiple federal and state agencies and led controversial reforms in Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) policy and regulations. Over the years she has also worked closely with disability advocacy groups.

There is apparently nothing untoward or improper about her accepting a position with a consulting firm. Her experience and contacts will make her an unusually valuable addition to the team. 

The idea of “The Revolving Door”, however, raises questions about the people in Washington overseeing programs for people with disabilities. Are they working for us or are they angling for their next job? Maybe a little of both? The greatest conflict of interest that I see is when advocates for people with disabilities move back and forth between government agencies and advocacy groups. Their watchdog role in monitoring government for people with disabilities is inevitably compromised by the interests of the federal agencies that pay them. These conflicts need to be disclosed regularly and individuals and groups that operate independently of government need to be assured of the opportunity to be heard so as not to be drowned out by federally-funded advocates.

Michiganders may be interested in knowing that Health Management Associates has a Michigan component that includes Steve Fitton, a former State Medicaid Director, and Rich VandenHeuvel, a behavioral health executive with several community mental health agencies and regional Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans (PIHPs).

See more on the Revolving Door.

The Center for Responsive Politics at is a non-partisan, independent and nonprofit group that tracks money in politics and its effects on elections and public policy. Of the “The Revolving Door”, the organization says, “…[it] shuffles former federal employees into jobs as lobbyists, consultants and strategists just as the door pulls former hired guns into government careers…While officials in the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staffers spin in and out of the private and public sectors, so too does privilege, power, access and, of course, money.”

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