A Washington Post op-ed described the latest case of a revolving door frequent flier, or perhaps frequent revolver, with health care connections. I will try to piece it together chronologically.
The story revolves around one Steven Ricchetti. His earlier career trajectory was:
Blue Cross Blue Shield, then the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, then the Clinton White House, then lobbying, then back to the Clinton White House, then more lobbying, this time starting Ricchetti Inc. with his brother, Jeff. (A call seeking comment from Ricchetti Inc. wasn’t returned.)
Most recently, he "was tapped to be counselor to Vice President [Joseph] Biden."
His recent clients were"Fannie Mae, General Motors, the American Hospital Association, and Eli Lilly," obviously includeingtwo prominent health care organizations.
Previously he had represented
AT&T, Reed Elsevier, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Siemens, Sirius XM, Amgen, Boston Scientific, America’s Health Insurance Plans, eBay, Dow Chemical, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Cumulatively, they paid Ricchetti and his firms millions.
Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Amgen, and Boston Scientific are obviously "pure" health care corporations. Reed Elsevier has a publishing subsidiary with important medical titles. Siemens Healthcare is an important part of that company. The links above are to our relevant posts about these firms, some of which describe various ethically questionable behavior.
Note that Mr Ricchetti's appointment apparently circumvented the President's previous statement that "lobbyists 'will not run my White House.'" He
achieved this feat — getting around the ban on lobbyists serving in the administration — by using one of Washington’s most-honored traditions: the loophole. Just as Obama won the presidency, Ricchetti de-registered as a lobbyist for his various clients. But he remained president of the lobbying firm that continued to work for many of those same clients, as well as a few more, such as the American Bankers Association.
While Mr Ricchetti is no doubt an intelligent and hard-working man, could not someone who was not so strongly financially tied to the leadership of some of the US' most ppowerful health care corporations be found who was well-qualified for this position?
Pending the answer to that question, which I do not expect to receive, this story becomes our latest example of the coziness between political and government leadership on one hand, and the leadership of large health care organizations, and those they choose as representatives.
We have seen all sorts of permutations of revolving door stories involving people with strong ties to the largest health care organizations. The implication is that both health care's private sector and the government functions meant to provide or regulate health care do not operate at arms' length, and in fact seem to be run by a group of insiders who overlap both, and may be more attuned to their self-interest and patients' and the public's health.
Health policy in the US has become an insiders' game. Unless it is redirected to reflect patients' and the public's health, facilitated by the knowledge of unbiased clinical and policy experts rather than corporate public relations, expect our efforts at health care reform to just increase health care dysfunction.
Physicians, public health advocates, whatever unbiased health policy experts remain must educate the public about how health policy has been turned into a corporate sandbox. We must try to somehow activate the public to call for health care policy of the people, by the people, and for the people.