Top Bush Health Adviser Stands to Gain Personally from Candidate?s Prescription Drug Plan

Sept. 21, 2000

Top Bush Health Adviser Stands to Gain Personally from
Candidate?s Prescription Drug Plan

Gail Wilensky holds multimillion-dollar stake in health care companies

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The proposed prescription drug and Medicare reform program recently unveiled by George W. Bush was shaped by an adviser who has a multimillion-dollar stake in managed care, health insurance, nursing home and drug companies.

Gail R. Wilensky, a senior adviser to Bush and a principal author of his Medicare plan, holds shares and stock options in health care companies valued at $10.5 million, based on Sept. 20 market prices. Many of those companies could benefit handsomely from the Bush plan.

Wilensky?s single biggest financial interest in the managed care and health insurance industries, according to a report released today by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, comes from her relationship with UnitedHealth Group, the nation?s second largest managed care company. She serves on the board of directors of UnitedHealth Group and owns shares and stock options in UnitedHealth valued at $5 million, based on Sept. 20 market prices. Wilensky is a director of at least seven other health care companies, in which she owns shares or stock options valued at $5.5 million on Sept. 20.

Wilensky also stands to receive nearly $200,000 in director?s fees this year from the eight companies, plus an additional 50,000 stock options granted annually to directors by the eight companies.

“Any campaign that crafts a proposal that is so well liked by the drug, insurance and managed care industries has an obligation to publicly disclose the personal financial stake of its top advisers in such policy choices,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

Another health care adviser to the Bush campaign, lobbyist Deborah Steelman, has received $6.5 million in lobbying fees from drug, health insurance and managed care companies and associations in the past three years, according to the Public Citizen report. Most of those clients have a direct financial stake in the outcome of the Medicare debate.

“Wilensky?s conflict of interest appears more overt than that of vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney, who was pressured into giving up his stock options in an oil company worth $3.6 million, because he might shape energy policy as vice president,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen?s Congress Watch. “In Wilensky?s case, she is already shaping policy that could directly benefit her personal finances.