KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawmakers, Spouses Ties To Health Industry Shape Views

Nearly 50 lawmakers in Congress have spouses who work in the health care industry and that may be influencing their thinking on health reform, CQ Politics reports.

"Financial disclosure forms made public in mid-June showed that at least 39 members were tied to the industry by their spouses in 2008. In addition, 13 full-voting House members are medical doctors. Six senators reported that their spouses earned income from health industry jobs. An additional two, Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, are physicians. The influence and connections that result from this little-examined reality of Washington life rarely violate ethics rules or laws. But the experiences can make a significant difference in how members view health care overhaul proposals."

Sen. Chris Dodd's wife also works in the medical industry, and "to ensure no ethical questions arise" from her deep involvement with industry stakeholders, "Dodd has brought in an ethics adviser to guide him. 'Jackie Clegg Dodd's career is her own, absolutely independent of Sen. Dodd, as it was when they married 10 years ago,' said Dodd spokesman Bryan DeAngelis" (Epstein, 6/23).

In the meantime, Nancy-Ann DeParle, President Obama's White House health care czar, earned at least $2.3 million working for health care companies in 2008 and early 2009, reported The Associated Press: "DeParle disclosed compensation for her service on the boards of directors of Cerner Corp., Boston Scientific Corp., and Medco Health Solutions Inc. She also served as managing director of CCMP Capital last year through this February, and on the DaVita Inc. board of directors from January through July 2008" (Theimer, 6/23).

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