House Speaker John Boehner has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Affordable Care Act, presiding over the 113th Congress, which has voted more than 50 times to repeal the law that Boehner has called a "train wreck" and a "job killer." Boehner has been helped developing that negative messaging these past three years by his chief communications guy, Brendan Buck. In the irony of all ironies, Buck announced yesterday he will be leaving Boehner and his staff, reported the Washington Post.
Buck is leaving Boehner for an association, America's Health Insurance Plans, representing thousands of health insurers and providers, which at the moment is a pro-Obamacare group. He made the announcement on Twitter:
It's true. Today is my last with @SpeakerBoehner. It's been an incredible privilege to serve him and the House. Thanks to everyone here.
Buck is known on Capitol Hill as a towering, lanky presence as one of the few voices who speaks on behalf of Boehner and the broader House Republican Conference. He has focused especially on rapid response to comments and policy introduced by President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Now, Buck will be advocating in favor of President Obama's legacy legislation. Buck had worked briefly as as press secretary to the vice-presidential campaign of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). He previously served as spokesman for the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of the most conservative House Republicans, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and as a spokesman for Rep. Tom Price (R-GA).
Boehner released a statement Monday morning and said that Buck was "absolutely critical" to the GOP's campaign to retake House control in 2010. "Then, he took a leading role in our communications shop, holding the White House accountable in the middle of some of the biggest fights this town has seen in quite a while. I’ve appreciated his advice, his energetic advocacy, and his wit every step of the way. Boehnerland will miss him."
AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said Buck's "experience and skill set will allow him to hit the ground running on day one. He's an effective communicator who knows how to tackle complex policy issues and skillfully navigate an ever-changing health care and media environment. We are delighted to welcome him to our team."
AHIP expressed initial skepticism about the ACA but eventually announced support once it included the "individual mandate" -- the requirement that most Americans have health insurance. Beyond guaranteeing insurers additional customers, the mandate gave AHIP confidence that health plans would have workable "risk pools," needed to keep their rates from rising too fast, because they would gain new healthy customers as well as ones who were sick and eager for coverage because they needed a lot of care.
As the health-care law has been implemented, including since the opening of the new health exchanges last fall, AHIP has quietly pressed the administration for decisions that would be useful to the industry. But, publicly, the group and individual insurers have largely avoided criticizing the law.
Washington Post - Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck departing for AHIP
Mediaite - Boehner Press Secretary Leaves for Insurance Association Post