CMS Administrator Scully Defends Job Hunt During Medicare Bill Negotiations
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, CMS Administrator Tom Scully defended his job search activities while working on negotiations for the final Medicare bill (HR 1), saying, "I am a lawyer, and I spent a lot of time making sure I followed every ethical guideline," CongressDaily reports (Rovner, CongressDaily, 12/4). Scully, who has headed CMS for the past three years, confirmed on Wednesday that he will resign Dec. 15 after President Bush has signed the Medicare bill to possibly take a job at one of five investment or law firms that have offered him a position as an adviser on Medicare legislation. Scully said that he decided to leave the agency in May for personal reasons, but Bush administration officials requested that he remain at CMS to work on the Medicare bill. Scully agreed and received an ethics waiver from HHS that allowed him to work on the Medicare bill and negotiate with potential new employers at the same time (California Healthline, 12/4). On Wednesday, Scully said that the HHS general counsel called him "a model citizen," adding, "I did this by the book." According to the CongressDaily, Scully called an article in Wednesday's New York Times "unfair" for suggesting he had taken part in a "bidding war." He said, "What really irritates me is that I followed the rules absolutely to the 'T.' For somebody to suggest other than that is absolutely outrageous." Scully added that he would like to stay to help implement the bill but said, "I lost a family vote 4-1" (CongressDaily, 12/4). Several opponents of the Medicare bill said that Scully's conversations with potential employers during the bill's negotiations reinforced perceptions that the Bush administration favors insurers and drug companies (California Healthline, 12/4).
In related news, the "quick turnaround" of some of the aides who negotiated the new Medicare bill from governmental roles to jobs in the private sector "is raising eyebrows," CongressDaily reports. For example, Senate Finance Committee health policy counsel Colin Roskey started work Monday for Atlanta law firm Alston & Bird. Roskey said that he had no negotiations with the firm during the Medicare debate. According to CongressDaily, "Other key GOP health aides are said to be exploring their options, and Democrats are moving on, too." Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, which opposed the bill, said, "This usually happens right near the end of the session. But unfortunately, this occurs on the heels of such incredible special interest provisions in this bill," adding that the congressional ethics policy regarding lobbying "deserves closer scrutiny." Gail Shearer of the Consumers' Union, which also opposed the bill, said, "This is really starting to stink" (Fulton, CongressDaily, 12/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.