Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump's Medicare Chief Latest Double Dipper


President elect Donald Trump announced his nomination for Center for Medicare/Medicaid.  Trump's Seema Verma helped design state healthcare policy like President Obama's Marilyn Tavenner.  Tavenner refused to share a study on the future of healthcare in Virginia as it was privately funded.  Verma helped design health policy for Indiana but her company worked for both sides, the state and HP, a giant Medicaid contractor for the state.  IndyStar reported:

For more than a decade, the little-known private consultant has quietly shaped much of Indiana's public health-care policy. The state has paid her millions of dollars for her work — amid a potential conflict of interest that ethics experts say should concern taxpayers.

Largely invisible to the public, Verma's work has included the design of the Healthy Indiana Plan, a consumer-driven insurance program for low-income Hoosiers now being touted nationally as an alternative to Obamacare. In all, Verma and her small consulting firm, SVC Inc., have received more than $3.5 million in state contracts.

At the same time, Verma has worked for one of the state's largest Medicaid vendors — a division of Silicon Valley tech giant Hewlett-Packard. That company agreed to pay Verma more than $1 million and has landed more than $500 million in state contracts during her tenure as Indiana's go-to health-care consultant, according to documents obtained by The Indianapolis Star.

Verma's dual roles raise an important question: Who is she working for when she advises the state on how to spend billions of dollars in Medicaid funds — Hoosier taxpayers or one of the state's largest contractors?

In a written statement, Verma said unequivocally that she played no role in HP's contracts with the state. "SVC has disclosed to both HP and the state the relationship with the other to be transparent," Verma said. "If any issue between HP and the state presented a conflict between the two, I recused myself from the process."

But the recently ousted head of the state agency administering Verma's contract told The Star that Verma once attempted to negotiate with state officials on behalf of Hewlett-Packard, while also being paid by the state.

HP said it can find no one in its company with any recollection of such a meeting. Verma declined to answer further questions about her work with the state or HP.

Verma's dual roles have surprised some leading Republican lawmakers and expose one of many loopholes in Indiana's government ethics laws.  Government ethics experts told the Star the arrangement presented a conflict of interest.
Obama's health reformer Nancy-Ann DeParle received private equity distributions from the sale of healthcare companies while serving the public.  This after all conflicting assets were disposed.

One cannot serve two masters.  Arthur Anderson showed that consulting and public accounting don't mix.

Of course in a Trump administration there is only one master.  His name is Donald.

Update 1-14-17:  Big pharma retains its pricing protection courtesy of Congress.