Tommy G. Thompson, the former Health and Human Services Secretary and four-term Governor of Wisconsin, is a partner at the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
At Akin Gump, Thompson is building on his efforts as HHS Secretary and Governor to develop innovative solutions to the health care challenges facing American families, businesses, communities, states and the nation as a whole. These efforts focus on improving the use of information technology in hospitals, clinics and doctors offices; promoting healthier lifestyles; strengthening and modernizing Medicare and Medicaid and expanding the use of medical diplomacy around the world.
Thompson served as HHS Secretary from 2001 to 2005 and is one of the nation's leading advocates for the health and welfare of all Americans. He is the 19th individual to serve as Secretary of the department, which employs more than 60,000 personnel and has a fiscal year 2005 budget of $584 billion.
Thompson has dedicated his professional life to public service and served as Governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001. Thompson made state history when he was re-elected to office for a third term in 1994 and a fourth term in 1998.
At HHS, Thompson led the Administration’s efforts to pass and implement a new Medicare law that is for the first time providing a drug benefit to America’s seniors. Thompson also reinvigorated the nation’s public health infrastructure by providing states and communities with the resources they need to respond to terrorist attacks or any other public health emergency. He also started a national crusade to encourage people, businesses and communities to lead healthier lifestyles by eating healthier, exercising more and quitting smoking. And, as chairman of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Thompson led the United States’ efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
During his 14 years as governor, Thompson focused on revitalizing Wisconsin's economy. He also gained national attention for his leadership on welfare reform, expanded access to health care for low-income people and education.
In 1996, Thompson enacted Wisconsin Works, or "W-2," the state's landmark welfare-to-work legislation, which served as a national model for welfare reform. The program required participants to work, while at the same time providing the services and support to make the transition to work feasible and permanent. W-2 provided a safety net through child care, health care, transportation and training assistance. Wisconsin's monthly welfare caseload declined by more than 90 percent, while the economic status of those taking part in W-2 improved. The average family on AFDC had been 30 percent below the federal poverty line. However, at the average wage of people leaving W-2, families were 30 percent above the poverty line.
Later, Thompson worked to extend health insurance to many low-income children and families. As of November 2000, The BadgerCare program—Wisconsin's Medicaid/State Children's Health Insurance Program for uninsured families—had enrolled more than 77,000 individuals. In addition, Wisconsin's Pathways to Independence was the nation's first program to allow the disabled to enter the workforce without the fear of losing health benefits. The program provides ready access to a coordinated system of services and benefits counseling. As governor, Thompson also created FamilyCare, designed to help elderly and disabled citizens, and allow them to receive care in their homes for as long as possible.
Also as governor, Thompson created the nation's first parental school choice program in 1990, allowing low-income Milwaukee families to send children to the private or public school of their choice. He also created Wisconsin's Council on Model Academic Standards, which implemented high academic standards for English language arts, math, science and social studies. Thompson also made unprecedented investments in the University of Wisconsin System through building projects and initiatives to attract and retain world-class faculty while keeping tuition affordable for students.
Thompson began his career in public service in 1966 as a representative in Wisconsin's state Assembly. He was elected assistant Assembly minority leader in 1973 and Assembly minority leader in 1981. Thompson has received numerous awards for his public service, including the Anti-Defamation League's Distinguished Public Service Award. In 1997, Thompson received Governing Magazine's Public Official of the Year Award, and the Horatio Alger Award in 1998. Thompson has also served as chairman of the National Governors' Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Midwestern Governors' Conference. He also served in the Wisconsin National Guard and the Army Reserve.