GEORGE W. BUSH II: Adviser May Profit from Medicare Plan
Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) adviser Dr. Gail Wilensky, a "key figure" in the development of the Republican candidate's Medicare reform package, may profit from the plan, Congress Watch charged yesterday. The Los Angeles Times reports that Wilensky serves on the board of directors and holds more than $10 million in stock options at eight health care companies that could benefit from Bush's proposal, leading to questions about a possible "conflict of interest." According to Frank Clemente, director of Congress Watch, part of the consumer group Public Citizen founded by Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, "[Wilensky] is already shaping policy that could directly benefit her personal finances." Wilensky maintained, however, that she has not hidden her corporate ties, which net her about $200,000 per year, and avoids lobbying governments for her firms, including the managed care company United Health Group, biotech firm Advanced Tissue Sciences and nursing home chain Manor Care. "I really resent the impugning of my integrity," she said, adding, "I have lived what I think is a very open and above-board existence." Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett defended Wilensky, dismissing Congress Watch's charges as "an assertion by a left-leaning group that supports more government control of health care." Center for Responsive Politics spokesperson Steven Weiss also "downplayed" the issue, noting, "[T]here are probably advisers to current and former candidates for president that have similar ties to other industries that have performed their consultant jobs without bias." He added, "You don't become a top adviser to a presidential candidate having no experience in the area that you're advising" (Martelle, 9/22).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.