Thursday, January 27, 2011

Big Door Keeps On Turning - Bi-Directional Interchanges Among Government and Corporate Health Care Leadership

Recently we noted some complex examples of the health care "revolving door," cases of health care corporate leaders who came from government heading back into government.  The first was reported by Politico:
California Rep. Mary Bono Mack has hired PhRMA’s former chief spokesman as a senior adviser, adding another Republican lawmaker to the list of those who have recruited staff members with K Street ties.

Ken Johnson will serve as a senior policy and communications adviser to Bono Mack, chairwoman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Johnson has deep ties to the committee, having worked for former Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin when he headed the Energy and Commerce Committee.

When PhRMA hired Tauzin months after the Louisiana congressman helped pass the industry-supported Medicare drug benefit, Johnson followed. So it was not surprising that Johnson did not stay on with PhRMA last year after Tauzin stepped down.

In 2009, Tauzin made more than $4.5 million and Johnson pulled in more than $500,000, according to tax records.
Note that Mr Johnson went from an influential government position to a position representing the pharmaceutical industry, and then back to government
In the same vein and in the same article was:
House Speaker John Boehner hired the medical device industry’s chief lobbyist as his policy director.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted:
Minnesota health executive Lois Quam has signed to lead the multibillion dollar Global Health Initiative at the U.S. State Department.

A State Department spokesman confirmed Wednesday that Quam will be executive director of the initiative.

In 2009, President Barack Obama committed $63 billion over six years to the program aimed at helping developing nations fight disease, improve nutrition and provide more aid for prenatal and postnatal care.

Quam, of St. Paul, is a former UnitedHealth Group executive who co-founded a health consulting firm last year. She is married to Matt Entenza, a former state lawmaker who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010.

The appointment reunites Quam with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Quam was a senior adviser to Clinton's health care task force in the 1990s.

Note that Ms Quam went from government leadership (in the Clinton administration's abortive attempt at health care reform via an elaborate version of managed care), to corporate leadership (in one of the largest commercial managed care organizations, some of whose exploits are discussed here), then back to government (now leading global health.  As an aside, UnitedHealth has been developing its global presence for years, e.g., see this post about its forays into the UK.)

We last discussed the "revolving door," that is, the easy interchange among leadership in government and health care corporations here.  The brief news items above shows how the door spins continuously, resulting not only in former government leaders ending up in influential, and well-recompensed positions in the health care industry, but also in industry leaders ending up in influential government positions.  In two cases above, people who started out in influential government positions transitioned to health care corporate positions, and then back to government. 

As we noted earlier, the continually revolving door is a sign of the increasingly corporatist nature of the US.  Government and the biggest corporations now seem to see themselves as natural allies, partially because their leadership increasingly forms a cozy combined group.  The big problem, of course, is such an alliance leaves out everybody else, from small business, to individual professionals, to the people at large. 

As I noted earlier, if we want health care to put the needs of individual patients first, we ought to consider ways to make both government and corporate health care leaders more responsive to the people rather than to their combined self-interest. 

1 comment:

Jennings Fan said...

Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse by Marianne Jennings

Sign #5: Conflicts