Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) is demanding an investigation into what he characterizes as illegal activities at HHS and, in an effort to get his way, is delaying a full Senate vote on the nomination of Daniel Levinson as HHS inspector general, Modern Healthcare has learned. Lautenberg wants the inspector general's office to take action on a Government Accountability Office report that said former CMS Administrator Tom Scully violated federal law in pressuring a CMS actuary to withhold from Congress an estimated cost for various Medicare reforms. The GAO report said HHS should seek the return of $84,000 in salary from Scully because of his behavior. According to his spokesman, Lautenberg also wants the inspector general's office to follow up on a separate GAO report that said video news releases by the CMS amounted to political advertising and an illegal use of taxpayer funds.
Scully, in an interview with Modern Healthcare, said he did nothing wrong and would not repay the money. Levinson could not be reached for comment, and HHS officials did not respond to phone calls. President Bush nominated Levinson for HHS inspector general in July 2004, and Levinson has been acting inspector general since then. Two Senate committees have approved his nomination to the permanent position, but the required full Senate vote has yet to take place. HHS has not had a permanent inspector general since June 2003 when Janet Rehnquist resigned under pressure. -- by Mark Taylor