July 11, 2014

K Street Files: My Turn

Former Bush administration official and lobbyist Tommy Thompson is the latest Republican to lash out at the Democratic National Committee for apparently misusing his stance on health care reform. The DNC over the weekend reportedly pulled a television advertisement featuring Thompson, former Sen. Bob Dole (Kan.) and other Republicans who apparently supported a White House-led charge to fix the nation’s insurance woes.

The party committee reportedly canceled the ad blitz after Dole complained to the White House that the spot misrepresented his views. Thompson on Tuesday voiced his frustrations that Democrats did not consult him before cutting the ad and said he was only told about it from an acquaintance.

“We’re 80 percent there and we should be working together collectively, both parties, to get a health care transformation bill that is acceptable,” said Thompson, a former Health and Human Services secretary.

“The Democratic National Committee takes that out of context and puts it in an ad, which was very political and very wrong.”

The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld lobbyist, whose firm represents industry powerhouse Aetna, was also critical of an insurance industry report out this week that claims individual coverage rates will go up under current Democratic proposals.

“They cherry-picked in order to make it sound worse than it really is — they used the worst scenarios to drive the worst conclusion,” he said. “They’re trying to get leverage, but you don’t put something out there that is easily dismissed.”

Thompson also offered praise to President Barack Obama for taking up the cause.

“Anytime you deal with something as convoluted and complicated as health care, you’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “Overall, you have to give the president credit for putting it out there, staking it out and trying to get it done.”

As to his own political future, he would not rule out another gubernatorial run or 2010 challenge to Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who fared worse than expected in a recent hypothetical electoral matchup with the former Wisconsin governor.

“I haven’t said ‘no,’” he said.

In the Eye of the Stakeholder. The recent release of a study by the Congressional Budget Office that concluded medical malpractice reforms would save $54 billion in health care costs over a decade has generated contradictory interpretations from those keenly interested in the issue.

Top Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, immediately seized on the findings as bolstering their contention that legal changes need to be made. Grassley’s office issued a news release saying it was a “no brainer to include tort reform in any health care reform legislation.”

The Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also put out a statement saying “the $54 billion in deficit reduction over a decade is momentous.”

The institute estimated that the medical liability reform would shave more than 10 percent from the cost of the Finance Committee’s health care coverage provisions.

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