Should Not Make Health Policy Decisions Impacting Profits
CONCORD, N.H.—The Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire is calling on Sen. Matt Houde to resign from his position on the Joint Health Care Reform Oversight Committee because the senator’s employment as a lobbyist for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center poses a direct conflict of interest with the decisions still left to be made this year by the committee.
Senator Houde’s employer would directly profit from outstanding oversight committee decisions if the committee decides to pick a benefit-rich essential health benefits package, set up a so-called partnership health insurance exchange, and choose to expand Medicaid. All three of these decisions, however, would directly oppose the will of the people who oppose Obamacare, contradict the decisions of the Legislature and significantly raise premiums for people who have private health insurance.
“The three remaining decisions that the oversight committee is likely to make this year will directly affect Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and yet Sen. Houde has not said a word in public about his employment in the government affairs office of the state’s largest health care provider to his colleagues on the committee or to the people of this state,” said Carolyn McKinney, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. “Sen. Houde has a vested financial interest in ensuring the growth of Medicaid and the full implementation of the disastrous Obamacare scheme. He should step down from the oversight committee immediately and not continue to leave himself in this ethical quagmire he’s created.”
In his position at New Hampshire’s largest health care provider, Sen. Houde is currently earning an income between $76,482 and $104,957 as senior community communications specialist for DHMC, reporting to Frank McDougall, vice president of government affairs, and to Neil Castaldo, DHMC general counsel. Yet, on the oversight committee, Houde will be voting on which essential health benefits package to select as a minimum standard for the state, whether the state should partner with the federal government on setting up a health insurance exchange and whether to expand Medicaid, and all three decisions would directly impact his employer, which pays his salary.
According to the Legislature’s ethical guidelines booklet, a legislator must take action when he “becomes aware” that a conflict of interest exists by either declaring his conflict to the committee and not participating in voting, or declaring his conflict in detail to the committee and expressing his intent to vote anyway. Sen. Houde has not made such a declaration to his colleagues on the oversight committee, and yet he has participated in votes and discussions on issues that will directly affect his employer. The most significant votes are still yet to come, so Sen. Houde should step down now to avoid any further impropriety, McKinney said.
As the oversight committee considers whether to expand Medicaid in New Hampshire, Sen. Houde’s colleagues and the people of New Hampshire should know that the senator’s employer is the largest Medicaid provider in the state and stands to profit substantially from a potential expansion of Medicaid, McKinney said. Additionally, Sen. Houde’s employer would also benefit substantially from a decision that allowed state insurance bureaucrats to partner with federal Health and Human Services bureaucrats on the creation of a partnership health benefits exchange. Such a move would trigger subsidies for insurers and the insured that would directly impact the amount of money reimbursed to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. This is a clear and present conflict that would personally enrich Dartmouth-Hitchcock as well as the senator’s own compensation, she said.
“It’s time for Sen. Houde to be honest with his fellow committee members and with the public,” McKinney said. “It’s time for Sen. Houde to declare his conflict and step down from the oversight committee.”