Money talks: Bush campaign donors named to HHS team
President Bush rewarded pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists for their campaign donations to Republican coffers by giving them seats on his HHS transition team.
Many healthcare lobbyists wanted to be part of the team, which advised the incoming administration on healthcare policy. Bush named the transition team in late December.
The panel's 19 members, including hospital, insurance and tobacco lobbyists, gave a total of $9,400 to Bush's campaign and nearly $100,000 to unspecified Republican campaigns. Bush administration officials declined comment.
The Center for Responsive Politics released a report on the lobbyists' donations Jan. 2, calling the transition team "a who's who list of former members of Congress, former members of Republican administrations, lobbyists and some of the nation's most prominent business executives." The Washington-based organization analyzes Federal Election Commission filings.
The most generous donor was Raymond Gilmartin, CEO of drug giant Merck & Co., who gave a total of $32,000 to Bush and other Republicans during the last election cycle, according to the center.
Hospital industry representatives were not nearly as lavish with their campaign gifts, but they did receive three spots on the team. Federation of American Hospitals President and CEO Thomas Scully and Assistant Vice President Dan Boston together gave $2,750 to Bush and $5,825 to other Republicans. Mary Beth Savary Taylor, the American Hospital Association's director of regulatory affairs, is the only other hospital representative. Savary Taylor is not listed by the center as a campaign donor, and the AHA did not return a call for comment by deadline.
Off the bench. Like a basketball coach with one star player in foul trouble and another injured, HCFA is going deep into its bench to make sure it stays in the game as it awaits a new leader.
The current head, at least until President Bush can name a replacement, is Michael McMullan. Before becoming acting deputy HCFA director, she had been acting director of HCFA's beneficiary services center, and before that she was deputy director of the center under director Carol Cronin.
As a career civil service employee, McMullan is one of the top HCFA employees who didn't have to resign effective at noon on Jan. 20, with Bush's inauguration. The previous acting deputy director, Robert Berenson, M.D., did.
McMullan becomes the fourth HCFA chief in the past four months. The last full administrator was Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, who left on Oct 1, 2000, to take a fellowship with Harvard University. Former President Bill Clinton appointed Deputy Administrator Michael Hash as acting administrator, but Hash left under a cloud Dec. 15 after he turned himself in for violations of the Hatch Act, which bans government employees from campaign activities.
Replacing Hash was Berenson, director of HCFA's health plans and providers center, a presidential appointee who served as acting deputy administrator until the last day of the Clinton administration.
Little ol' hospital makes "100 Best" list. When Fortune magazine published its annual report on the "100 Best Companies to Work For," it didn't surprise many in corporate America that the prestigious list included such employee-friendly icons as Microsoft.
But here's a stunner: The cash-rich computer company was one-upped in the prestigious list by little-known East Alabama Medical Center, proclaimed by Fortune to be the 36th best company to work for in the U.S. Microsoft, where stock options transformed thousands of employees into millionaires, ranked No. 37 on the list, a step below the 273-bed medical center 90 miles southwest of Atlanta in Opelika, Ala.
"If you look at a list of the companies," said Terry Andrus, president of the medical center since 1983, "it's sort of a who's who of corporate America-Microsoft, Merck, Federal Express, Southwest Airlines . . . and for a little ol' hospital in Lee County, Ala., to be in such high cotton, we're just tickled pink."
Even more surprisingly, the 1,600-employee hospital, owned and operated by the Lee County government, is the first public-sector agency ever to crack Fortune's 4-year-old "100 Best" list.
The folks at Fortune were apparently impressed by two innovative programs at the medical center.
Under a gain-sharing plan instituted about four years ago to reward employees when defined financial and customer-service goals are met, the hospital paid employees a total of about $3 million last year, or about 5% of the average base pay.
Meanwhile, the Cornerstone Society, an employee-operated assistance program funded through donations from employees, distributes anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 each year for a wide range of assistance. For instance, it has paid for a prosthetic arm for an employee and helped to fund a new Habitat for Humanity home for a hospital housekeeper.
The only other hospital company making it onto the list was Irving, Texas-based VHA, at No. 100.