Wilensky Replaced as Medicare Payment Commission Chair
Gail Wilensky, chair of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare issues such as reimbursement rates, is being replaced over concerns about her "substantial investments" in health care companies, the New York Times reports. Wilensky has been chair of the committee and its predecessor panel since 1995 and she is a former head of HCFA. As comptroller general of the United States, David Walker, also head of the General Accounting Office, is responsible for appointing the commission's 17 members. Walker said he opted to replace Wilensky, who's term expired last month, because she owned more than $4 million in stock and stock options in eight health care firms. Walker also said he wanted to see some "turnover" in the leadership of the commission. Glenn Hackbarth, a Bend, Ore., health care consultant, has been named as Wilensky's successor. The Times reports that Wilensky had attempted to keep her position but had "irritated" Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Wilensky said, "My independence was troublesome" for some lawmakers, adding, "I say what I think." Wilensky also said that her work on the commission was not influenced by her investments. While members of the commission are required to disclose any financial interests they have in the health care industry, Walker said the chair should be held to a "higher standard" because of the "additional power and responsibilities" associated with the position. The Times reports that three new members are expected to be appointed to the commission: Sheila Burke, under secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and chief of staff to former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.); Allen Feezor, health benefits administrator of California Public Employees' Retirement System; and Ralph Muller, president of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Health System (Pear, New York Times, 5/15).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.