Peter’s Legacy
Image of Harbage Consulting Founder Peter Harbage

Peter Harbage, Founder

in Memoriam

Peter Harbage spent over 20 years working to improve health policy at the federal, state and local level. He published extensively on health reform concepts and the public financing of health care.


This work often focused on safety net quality and accountability through federal Medicaid waivers. Peter was also committed to ensuring robust stakeholder engagement and coalition-building to find operational solutions to the pressing challenges facing health care systems in America.

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Peter had extensive experience in Medicaid financing and the options open to states and counties for accessing federal funds. He helped lead the team in California that originally conceptualized the nation’s first DSRIP program and used that experience to provide policy and operational advice on Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) to state agencies and health systems in Massachusetts, Texas, and New York. Peter served as an Assistant Secretary for Health at the California Health and Human Services Agency under Governor Gray Davis and as a Special Assistant to the Administrator of the federal Health Care Financing Administration during the Clinton Administration. He started his career as a Medicaid budget analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


From 2003 to 2008, Peter served as the senior health policy advisor to presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards. In 2007, he worked extensively with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s health care reform team in California in his role at the New America Foundation and was a Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Peter’s expertise and insight made him a frequent source for reporters nationwide. He appeared on CNN and NPR and has been cited in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee. Peter also taught on the American health care system at the University of Southern California and was a frequent contributor to UCS’s Annenberg School for Communication’s Health Journalism Fellowship program.


An avid runner, Peter always regretted that his high school cross-county coach (to whom Peter was a constant embarrassment) didn’t know Peter completed the 2011 Napa Valley Marathon in 3:37. It turns out that working on health reform was the perfect marathon training regimen for the heart and soul.


In 2014, Peter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. He died from complications from a bone marrow transplant to treat the disease in February 2015. Peter spent his last 18 months more dedicated than ever in working toward an America where everyone has access to high-quality health care. Peter’s belief in what health care could become was responsible for his success in developing national health care policy and advising policy makers at all levels of government. His intelligence, compassion and positive attitude gave him the strength to face challenges with courage, humor, and resilience.

The Peter Harbage Fellowship Trust

Harbage Consulting’s founder, Peter Harbage, provided a fund to support a Fellowship for exceptional students completing graduate degrees in the fields of public policy or public health.  Selected Harbage Fellows participate in 12-month paid fellowships at leading organizations focused on improving access to health coverage and care.

Since 2018, the Harbage Fellows have engaged with leaders and innovators in the California health policy field, received high-profile experience and professional growth opportunities, and launched their careers through this year-long fellowship. Host organizations to date include Health Access, The Children’s Partnership, and Justice in Aging.


To read more, apply, or donate to the Peter Harbage Fellowship, click on the button below.

Selected Publications

Peter Harbage published a wide range of research publications and reports during his 20-year career. Following is a recent selection of his work:

Opinion and Editorial Writing

Peter Harbage published numerous Op-Eds on health care reform in national publications, including the following:

At the intersection of health care policy, politics and communications.