Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Virginia's Health Care Reform Study not Available to Public

Ex-HCA high up Marilyn Tavenner will soon use a privately funded health care reform study as an "internal working document" to change the State of Virginia's health care system. Just as ex-Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney used a meeting with energy chief executives to set our national energy policy and kept it secret, so plans Marilyn with the approval of Democratic Governor Tim Kaine. But wait, this isn't the first time an ex-for profit leader, now in a governmental role, crafts health care changes behind the watchful public eye.

Tom Scully, former head of the for profit hospital lobbying group, brought us the Medicare Prescription Drug Program in a similarly opaque manner as the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid. Tom stifled a subordinate’s higher cost estimates in an apparently illegal move.

The public is keenly aware of President Bush’s desires to unleash the power of the individual consumer in negotiating prices with doctors and hospitals. Tom refused to leverage the 80 million covered lives in his Center for Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate better deals for prescription drugs. Poor seniors and the disabled ended up getting the short end of the stick and George Bush spoke directly to this in his talk in Dublin, Ohio when he said “And you probably read about kind of the dual- eligible problem”. This flaw was well known in advance of the program’s approval, some three years before the President’s folksy Midwest chat.

So what can Virginia expect from Marilyn? Let’s hope it’s more than Tom delivered. During the prescription drug program’s development, Mr. Scully negotiated for his future employment. Is anyone surprised he landed as a health care lobbyist alongside ex-Senators Bob Dole-R and Tom Daschle-D? He also snagged a Senior Advisor role in a private equity firm with a large health care porfolio which happens to include a national Medicare Part D plan sponsor.

Anyone who believes the Democrats are more open than Republicans on health care isn’t watching the money flows to leading candidates. Tom Scully let the country down with his intransigence and self serving behavior. What will Marilyn do? Of course Governor Kaine is the captain of the ship who could right the listing vessel at any time. Will he do any better than George Bush? Time will tell.

Update 8-8-14:  Tavenner is now President Obama's head of Medicare/Medicaid.  She's having difficulty keeping e-mail records wanted by Congress.  This is George W. Bush-Frances Townsend worthy.

Update 9-5-15:  Marilyn retired as CMMS Chief, was appointed to the board of LifePoint Hospitals (an HCA spinoff) and is now the chief lobbyist for America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).   Tavenner pulled a Scully.