Bush Nominates a Pharmaceutical Executive to Head OMB
President-elect Bush has nominated Eli Lilly & Co. corporate vice president Mitchell Daniels -- a "powerful healthcare industry executive" -- to head the Office of Management and Budget, the Wall Street Journal reports. While Daniels would not have "direct responsibility" for health care, he is expected to be a "key architect" in any administration proposals to overhaul Medicare, to add a prescription drug benefit to the program, to limit drug patents to encourage price competition, or to allow the reimportation of cheaper drugs from abroad. Daniels, who has an "extensive background" in Republican politics, served as an adviser to President Reagan and was chief of staff to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). The Journal reports that Daniels' position on a Medicare drug benefit initiative is "similar" to the one that Bush supported during his campaign.
Last February, Daniels testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging on behalf of Eli Lilly and said any drug benefit added to Medicare should be "based on competition among private-sector options where beneficiaries can choose the plan they want." Daniels also testified that any plan to "simply" add a benefit to Medicare, like the one the Clinton administration has proposed, could "quickly translate into price controls" for drugs and "derail medical progress." While it is "hardly uncommon" for business executives to assume Cabinet positions and other administration jobs, the Journal reports that consumer advocates have "raised questions" about Daniels' nomination. John Rother, AARP's "top lobbyist," said, "He'll have to be careful to bend over backwards to make sure it doesn't appear that he's favoring his former employer" (VandeHei/McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 12/26).