Deputy Secretary, Health and Human Services Department
GOP health care official
Industry: Health care law
Key previous position: Acting HHS deputy secretary under George W. Bush
Education: Harvard; Columbia Law
Notable fact: Volunteers at local church
For Eric Hargan, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that serving as Health and Human Services deputy secretary feels a little like fate.
“It was kind of almost destined I was going to end up in politics and health care,” Hargan said, explaining that his father served as a county commissioner in Pulaski County, Illinois, and his mother worked at the local hospital as an X-ray tech for 58 years.
“I grew up in and around politics, very local politics, from a very early age,” he said, recalling the hours he spent at “potluck suppers and county fairs” while growing up in Mounds, a small town in rural Illinois.
This administration marks the second go-round in HHS for Hargan, an attorney who comes to government from private practice. He served at the department under President George W. Bush, starting as deputy general counsel before ending up as acting deputy secretary. He’s been back at HHS since 2017, when he stepped into the position of acting secretary after the resignation of Tom Price, before settling into his Senate-confirmed role as deputy.
And there’s one policy issue that keeps following him, no matter where he goes. “Whether in or out of government, it’s regulatory reform,” Hargan said.
In his years outside government, Hargan has taught at Loyola University School of Law in Chicago as a professor of administrative law and worked as a regulatory lawyer at his former firm. In Bush’s HHS, he served as deputy general counsel for regulations and chief regulatory officer. And regulatory reform takes up most of his time at HHS these days, with the agency’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care initiative looking at the rules and regulations that may limit the way providers share information.
For Hargan, his return to health policy in Washington has reinforced the three things he’s identified as essential to being an effective policymaker: finding a solid team, understanding the issues, and then mastering the material.
“Same desk, same office, in the same building that I was in when I left,” he said of his full-circle return to the department. “I’m almost like a Rip Van Winkle figure for HHS because I’m right back where I was.”