Unfounded though they may be, it's been said by some who have deep-seated fears of a government takeover of health care, that if members of Congress had some "skin in the game," they would write a better bill. Meaning, supposedly, that if Congress had to participate in whatever "plan" they legislate they would do it differently. What isn't always apparent is that some members of Congress already have "skin in the game."
For Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick, part of the Blue Dog Coalition, that "skin" comes partially in the form of campaign contributions from the health sector, including $126,464 over his political career according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Even more importantly, Minnick's stake in the health care reform debate comes with investments in and close ties to health related industries. One of those close ties, as others have pointed out, is with Primary Health, Inc. According to his financial disclosure (via OpenSecrets), Minnick resigned from the Primary Health board of directors as of December 31, 2008, a position he held for at least the last six years, reporting income of $14,000 for 2008.
Primary Health, Inc. was founded in 1993 in Boise, and is:
a holding company for three subsidiaries: Primary Health Network, a commercial health plan covering more than 16,500 Idahoans with fully-insured group and individual health plans; Riverside Benefit Administrators, a third-party administrator for self-funded employee benefit plans with 12,600 covered lives; and Idaho Physicians Network, a statewide URAC-accredited provider network of more than 7,300 providers including 3,500 physicians.
Primary Health was acquired by Eugene, Oregon based PacificSource Health Plans this month.
Although no longer on the board, he still has close ties with the company; members of the board and top employees have contributed at least $4,200 to his campaign so far this cycle. In February of this year, in an interview with Michael Boss of the Idaho Business Review, Minnick was quoted as saying, "I sit on the board of directors of Primary Health, so I certainly see the value of this – but is this the best way to allocate $20 billion with all the other healthcare needs out there," apparently still getting used to no longer sitting on their board.
Minnick has other "skin in the game" which comes in the form of investments in health and insurance related companies. As of the first of this year he had assets of between $90,000 and $300,000 invested in companies such as Pfizer, Wellpoint, CVS Caremark and others. He also had investments of between $130,000 and $350,000 in companies that include health related businesses in their portfolios or as subsidiaries, such as Highway 12 Ventures, Accenture and others.
Congressman Minnick has a little more "skin in the game" than it appears on the surface and may help explain some of the positions he's taken when it comes to health care reform, such as insisting that the health care system remain private. This is not to suggest that a congressman can't be an effective representative while having interests in industries for which he or she might write legislation, but this is exactly why we require disclosure of such interests.