Many key lawmakers hold stakes in health industry

"Almost 30 key lawmakers helping draft landmark health-care legislation have financial holdings in the industry, totaling nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in a sector that could be dramatically reshaped by this summer's debate," The Washington Post reports.

The list of members includes "Congress's most powerful leaders and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers in key committee posts." For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "has at least $50,000 invested in a health-care index" (fund), and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, "a senior member of the health committee, has between $254,000 and $560,000 worth of stock holdings in major health-care companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck." The data was part of a "release of financial disclosure forms for the House and Senate" on Friday.

"While no congressional rules bar members from holding financial stakes in industries they regulate, some ethics experts suggest that it often creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, particularly if there is a chance that the legislation could result in a personal financial boost." But at "nearly 20%" of the national economy, "many legal experts say the health-care industry is so predominant that it is impossible for lawmakers to avoid financial ties to that sector, suggesting that the best antidote is a clear disclosure system that makes every lawmaker's finances publicly available."

The 22-member Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will consider a "liberal-leaning proposal that includes the creation of a 'public plan'" on Tuesday, includes "at least eight senators with financial interests in the health care industry worth a minimum of $600,000 - and potentially worth as much as $1.9 million" (Kane, 6/13).

The New York Times adds that "Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the senior Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, one of three panels in the House with jurisdiction over health care, reported at least tens of thousands of dollars in health-related interests, including the medical technology giant Medtronic, the drug maker Wyeth and the insurance company Aetna." But neither Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. Charles. Grassley, R-Iowa, who are "expected to unveil a bipartisan plan" later in the week, have major health-related holdings. Nancy-Ann DeParle, President Barack Omaba's chief health care advisor, earned "more than $2 million from 2008 to this year" while serving "on the boards of health companies and as director of a private-equity firm with health investments" (Calmes, 6/13).

The AP reports that the wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., "sits on the boards of four health care companies," and received more than $200,000 in fees and stock options last year. Sen. Dodd is filling in for the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., as the "lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate's bill" for the HELP Committee (Margasak and Theimer, 6/13).

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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