Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle: Too Close to Health Care Industry?

Tom Daschle, the Obama administration's nominee for secretary of health and human services, has ties to the health care industry he is trying to reform, says an editorial in the New York Times. He is knowledgeable and has written a book about the topic. Many former senators have used their experience and clout in Congress to work as an advisor in the private sector.

Despite not being a registered lobbyist, he has been paid for policy advice by UnitedHealth Group. As a Mayo Clinic trustee, the former Senate majority leader opposed a federal loan that would locate a railroad near their headquarters (it was later rejected). In addition, his speaking engagements after leaving the Senate have included appearances in front of pharmacy boards and health insurance plans.

While there is no indication that these past connections would bias his decisions, the Times believes Daschle is too close to the health insurance industry to be an effective leader on the health care issues promoted by the administration, including the expansion of universal health care coverage.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

UnitedHealth Spends Almost $1 Million on Lobbyists

In the third quarter ending September 30th, health insurance provider/HMO UnitedHealth spent about $970,000 lobbying on behalf of various health care issues. The Associated Press says that UnitedHealth lobbied Congress--as well as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury Department--on several health- and coverage-related issues, including:

  • the expansion of health savings accounts (HSAs)
  • electronic personal health records
  • a law that forbids group health care providers from enforcing extra coverage restrictions on those policyholders dealing with drug addiction or mental illnesses (Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act)
Serving as another example of the revolving door between government and lobbyists, a former staff member of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Means and Ways Committee was one of the lobbyists hired by UnitedHealth.

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