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Sunday, Jun 4 2017

Republicans cashing-in while gutting coverage for pre-existing conditions

Jun 04, 2017

“Trumpcare would rip health insurance away from 23 million Americans in order to cut taxes for the rich – including for Trump himself. The very House Republican who added the amendment to Trumpcare that would gut coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions like congenital heart disease was simultaneously lining his own pockets with investments in healthcare stocks. This scheme casts yet another alarming shadow of corruption on Trumpcare itself, which is an attack on America’s families,” said American Bridge spokesperson Andrew Bates.

N.J. lawmakers who backed Obamacare repeal invested in health companies during debate


NJ Advance Media for

WASHINGTON — The two New Jersey lawmakers who voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act bought or sold securities in health care companies while the issue was before the House, financial disclosure filings show.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.), whose proposed changes helped bring back the Obamacare repeal debate, bought as much as $800,000 in stock in health care companies this year. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) sold off shares of another company at their yearly high, according to filings with the Clerk of the House.

They are the two richest members of the state’s congressional delegation.

“Why are they buying and selling health care company stock when they’re working on a health care industry bill?” said President George W. Bush’s top ethics officer, Richard W. Painter, now a University of Minnesota law professor. “This looks incredibly suspicious.”

Camille Gallo, MacArthur’s spokeswoman, said the investments were made by financial advisers “with no input from the congressman.”

MacArthur sold off his financial industry holdings when he joined the House Financial Services Committee just as he divested himself of any defense industry stock when he served on the House Armed Services Committee, Gallo said.

“This is not required, nor was he asked to do so,” she said.

Frelinghuysen spokesman Steve Wilson did not respond to requests for comment.

House Ethics Committee rules say members do not have to recuse themselves from voting on issues affecting companies they hold stock in since they simply get the same benefits as other investors.

“If members of Congress couldn’t vote on any share of stock they owned, no one would be able to vote,” former House counsel Stan Brand said. “They don’t regulate companies the way regulators do. It’s not as if they can unilaterally benefit a company they’re investing in.” 

Even so, the timing of these transactions raised concerns.

“It’s always concerning to see lawmakers explicitly participating in the marketplace while simultaneously making policy choices that could impact those markets,” said Lisa Gilbert, a Glen Rock native who is vice president for legislative affairs for Public Citizen, a Washington advocacy group. “It isn’t illegal, but it certainly raises red flags.”

Both lawmakers voted for the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act, which the Congressional Budget Office said would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance, cut Medicaid by $834 billion, allow insurers to charge more for those with pre-existing conditions in states with federal waivers, and reduce taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans.

New Jersey’s other three Republicans and all seven Democrats voted no. The bill, strongly backed by President Donald Trump, now is before the Senate.

Following the House vote, the Cook Political Report, a Washington publication that tracks congressional races, rated both Frelinghuysen and MacArthur as more vulnerable in 2018.

Frelinghuysen sold $15,000 to $50,000 worth of stock in Varex Imaging on April 20, disclosures show. That was the day the shares reached their 52-week high price.

The sale occurred as House Republicans tried to resurrect their health care legislation, which had been pulled from the floor a month earlier due to lack of support. 

Varex, which supplies X-ray imaging components, was spun off from Varian Medical Systems, giving Frelinghuysen shares valued at between $1,000 and $15,000 on Jan. 30. Frelinghuysen owned $100,000 to $250,000 worth of stock in the original company, according to his 2016 personal financial disclosure report.

The Republican bill would eliminate a tax on medical device companies. Varex said in its quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission that “the repeal of all or parts of the Affordable Care Act resulting from the recent U.S. presidential election” could have an “adverse effect” on its business.

MacArthur this year bought between $250,000 and $800,000 worth of stock in health care companies, almost all of it on Jan. 9 and 10, just days before he dissented on the House Republican budget bill making it easier to repeal the existing law.

His biggest purchases were stock worth $102,000-$280,000 in CVS Health and $51,000-$115,000 in Roche Holding AG, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company.

CVS listed “reform of the U.S health care system,” including “possible repeal of all of parts” of the Affordable Care Act as risk factors going forward in its quarterly report.

MacArthur also bought from $4,000 to $60,000 in Tenet Healthcare corporate bonds from Feb. 28-March 3, and $4,000 to $60,000 in HCA corporate bonds in March and April. Both companies own hospitals and other medical treatment centers.

In its first-quarter financial report, Tenet acknowledged that “the health care industry, in general, and the acute care hospital business, in particular, are experiencing significant regulatory uncertainty based, in large part, on legislative efforts to significantly modify or repeal and potentially replace” the existing health care bill.

Of concern to Painter, vice chairman of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is whether the lawmakers acted with private information they gleaned as the health care legislation was drafted.

“What are the chances that everything they know is public?” Painter said.”Health care bills are very long and complex. They put stuff in, they’re taking it out, they’re wheeling and dealing.” 

Gallo said MacArthur was not interested in cashing in on his position. 

“Anyone trying to make the case that Tom entered public service to make money is flat out wrong and is a hammer in search of a nail,” she said.  

Published: Jun 4, 2017

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