Jeffrey Zients, who is reportedly slated to become President Joe Biden’s next chief of staff, has a long history of allegedly accumulating wealth via questionable business practices and helping guide federal healthcare policy.
Zients most recently served in the Biden White House from the president’s inauguration until April of 2022 as Coronavirus Response Coordinator. Prior to that, Zients was involved in the leadership of several healthcare companies that were forced to pay millions of dollars in fines for alleged Medicare and Medicaid fraud, as first reported by the American Prospect.
Prior to serving in the Biden White House, Zients’ most notable governmental experience came when he was brought on by the Obama team to help fix the rollout of Healthcare.gov, the online Affordable Care Act exchange. At the time, some critics accused him of having a conflict of interest due to his stake in Pediatric Services of America Healthcare (PSA Healthcare), a company that provides pediatric home healthcare services, The New York Times reported. (RELATED: Ex-White House COVID Czar To Become Biden’s New Chief Of Staff: REPORT)
In 2015, Portfolio Logic — an investment firm founded by Zients that had an ownership stake in PSA Healthcare — was forced to pay $6.88 million by the Justice Department (DOJ) for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid and violating state regulations for payment claims. PSA had overstated the length of certain services covered by Medicare and Medicaid and failed to return overpayments from the programs, according to the DOJ.
Amedisys Home Health Companies, another huge healthcare provider that Portfolio Logic owned a stake in, settled with the DOJ for $150 million in 2014 for Medicare fraud, the American Prospect reported.
Most recently, before becoming White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Zients helped start Wall Street investment firm Cranemere. Cranemere acquired several healthcare companies accused of engaging in surprise billing practices and medical malpractice, like NorthStar, which has a reputation for surprising patients with huge bills for “out of network” healthcare, according to the Prospect.
Zients made a few more stops along his way to the White House, including as a member of Facebook’s board of directors from 2018 to 2020 and as a consultant at Bain & Company, the NY Times noted. According to financial disclosures made public last year, Zients has a net worth of somewhere between $89 million and $443 million, ABC News reported.
Zients reportedly got the nod to succeed outgoing White House chief of staff Ron Klain in part thanks to Klain’s endorsement. Klain led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015, perhaps a reason he has a soft spot for Zients, who spent nearly a year and a half leading Biden’s COVID-19 response.
That response effort had its ups and downs. The Biden administration was able to quickly distribute COVID-19 vaccines to a majority of Americans after the Trump administration helped develop the shots with Operation Warp Speed. However, Zients faced criticism at other times, including when he held up the easing of travel restrictions in the summer of 2021.
White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients implores people to get vaccinated amid emergence of omicron.
“For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death—for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.” https://t.co/5kZ9YB8Nw6 pic.twitter.com/IjzUnymqg3
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 17, 2021
He also infamously warned that unvaccinated Americans would face a “winter of severe illness and death” in December 2021, which angered many Republicans.
As for Klain, he leaves his post as the longest-serving opening chief of staff for any Democratic president in history.