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Dear President Barack Obama: Part 7

Posted Feb 03 2009 11:21pm

 

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE.

You should disqualify Tom Daschle and his entire healthcare team. Their policies are a rerun of the 1993 Clinton healthcare plan in a different cloth. They are policies of the past that will fail. You have only to look at the state of Massachusetts to see the impending failure.

Please reread my previous letters to you to see what should be done.

In your book “The Audacity of Hope, Thoughts on Reclaiming the America Dream ” you said “ perhaps more than any other time in our recent history, we need a new kind of politics, one that can excavate and build upon those shared understandings that pull us together as Americans. That’s the topic of this book: how we might begin the process of changing our politics and our civic life.”

In your inaugural address and your first couple of weeks in office you have set expectations consistent with your philosophy in “The Audacity of Hope”. America is rooting for you.

The inequities between the haves and have not are wider than ever. Business cannot continue as usual. It is time for America to show its compassion. This explains the principle reason you were elected. You have given America hope.

You have spoken of the importance of ethics in your administration and set up rules against influence peddling that are admirable.

The issue is not that Tom Daschle should be confirmed because you have confidence in him. The issue is can America maintain its confidence in you if Mr. Daschle is confirmed.

Your continued support for Daschle would be a slap in the face to Americans who are counting on you to help change the culture of self-entitlement in Washington.

I hope you can stick to the expectations you have set and the hope you have given us.

Last week it was revealed that Tom Daschle survived your vetting process even though he did not pay $128,000 in income tax.

“Today Senate Democrats rushed to save the nomination of Mr. Daschle, their former leader” “and the White House spent the day trying to explain how he survived its vetting process despite his failure to pay $128,000 in taxes. “

In my view his confirmation process should have ended at that moment.

Tom Daschle, was aware as early as last Junethat he might have to pay back taxes for the use of a car and driver provided by a private equity firm, but did not inform the Obamatransition teamuntil weeks after Mr. Obama named him to the health secretary’s post, senior administration officials said Saturday.”

There are several issues in the financial disclosures that have avoided discussion.

  1. Financial Disclosures

a. $128,000 in back taxes for a car and driver computes at a 35% tax level to earned income of $426.666.

Daschle used the Cadillac and driver around Washington while working as a consultant to a New York City private equity firm, InterMedia Advisors. He used the limo 80 percent for personal use – resulting in unreported income of more than $255,000 for the three years.”

b. The numbers do not match even if you add the unreported income of $83,333 . There is also the discrepancy between Mr. Daschle’s financial disclosure forms stating InterMedia paid $2 million dollars since 2005 and InterMedia’s claim of payment for consulting fees at a rate of $1 million per year for the last four years. This amount alone adds up to almost $5 million dollars Mr. Daschle claims to have earned since leaving the Senate

“Senate Finance Committee documents show. InterMedia paid Daschle consulting fees at a rate of $1 million a year – or $83,333 a month. Daschle’s financial disclosure forms put his income from InterMedia at more than $2 million since 2005.”

  1. Conflict of Interest for the Secretary of Health and Human Services

a. Mr. Daschle was hired by the lobbying arm of Alston&Bird as a “special policy adviser ” of the firm because the law prohibits elected officials from lobbying for one year after leaving the Senate. Among his advisees were CVS Caremark, Abbott Laboratories, HealthSouth and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, all healthcare related organizations with a vested interest in the healthcare system.

“T he firm was paid $5.8 million between January and September 2008 to represent companies and associations before Congress and the executive branch, with 60 percent of that money coming from the health industry “Daschle's salary from Alston & Bird for the year 2008 was reportedly $2 million”. [“\4]

I could not find how much Alston&Bird paid Mr. Daschle between 2005 and 2007.

b. Mr. Daschle also received at least $220,000 for speeches to health care, pharmaceutical and insurance companies. He also received nearly $100,000 from health-related companies affected by federal regulation.’

c. The conflict of interest that bothers me the most is Mr. Daschle’s association with United Healthcare. I have not been kind to United Healthcare because of its abuse in both the private insurance and Medicare arenas.

Another client paying for his policy advice was UnitedHealth, a giant insurance company with many issues pending before the Department of Health and Human Services. About a third of its $81 billion in revenue last year came from federally regulated sales of Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement and prescription drug plans.

The company boasted in its annual report that “one in five Medicare recipients participates in a UnitedHealth Group Medicare program.” (Mr. Daschle has said he will recuse himself from matters involving former clients.)”

President Obama, the issue is not about Mr. Daschle. The Democratic Senators (with and approval rating of 30%) boast that he is a highly respected person. The issue is your credibility. You made a promise that you would change the way Washington does business.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's confident Daschle would survive a vote by his old colleagues.”

The sheen will be off Mr. Clean. It will be bad for the hope you have instilled in the country’s psyche.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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