[image-1]One of the government’s most outspoken defenders of the Affordable Care Act is leaving the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to start his own consulting business.

Anton Gunn, who was elected as a Democrat in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2008, left the Palmetto State for Georgia in 2010 when President Barack Obama tapped him as the Southeastern regional director for the federal health agency. He later moved to Washington, D.C. to become the agency’s director of external affairs. In 2008, the well-respected lawmaker and former Gamecocks lineman had appeared in a Time magazine article as a “leader of Obama’s grassroots army.”

Described by his former colleagues at HHS as an effective advocate for the ACA, Gunn leaves an agency where he referred to himself as “Mr. Healthcare,” and often engaged on social media with critics of the law. 

In a written message to the City Paper, Gunn confirmed his upcoming departure, and that he’s starting a consulting businesses, but didn’t elaborate.

On his Facebook wall he posted this, in part:

I have enjoyed my time at the department. I have enjoyed my tenure first as a Regional Director in Region IV and now as the Director of External Affairs. I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve my country. I want to thank you for your support, guidance, and encouragement that you have provided me during my time at HHS.

Even though I will miss my colleagues, partners, stakeholders and this historic administration. I am looking forward to taking this next step in my personal and professional journey as a Healthprenuer!

I will continue to be based here in the Washington, DC metro area for the near term. You can keep in touch with me at www.AntonGunn.com

Last month, during an Urban League forum about the Affordable Care Act, Gunn discussed his first-hand experience with unreliable health insurance coverage and why he continues to believe the law has value despite a rocky rollout. 

From Frost Illustrated, a weekly Indiana newspaper:

“It didn’t cover the pregnancy that my wife had in 2004 for my daughter,” he said. “I paid for the birth and delivery of my own child out of my own pocket–$17,000.”

Gunn said, at the time, he was spending $700 per month on a health insurance premium on the individual market.

Now, under the ACA, all plans have to cover mental health and substance abuse services, prescription drugs, and maternity.

Gunn compared buying health insurance coverage to buying a car.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, if you wanted to buy a car, you could buy a car with no seat belts, no headlights, no heat, didn’t have a windshield and many times didn’t have the tires that were screwed on tight,” said Gunn. “But, you thought that you were good, because you owned a car, but it really didn’t get you to where you needed to go.”

Here’s Gunn in 2011 describing his role as an HHS regional director on Pub Politics, a political online talk show formerly filmed in Columbia:

Pub Politics Episode 69: Free Times Carnival from Wesley Donehue on Vimeo.