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MARCH  10, 1999   6:52 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Public Citizen
 
Consumer Group Attacks Medicare Commission Member’s Conflict of Interest; Deborah Steelman Paid Nearly $3 Million by Health Industry Interests
 
WASHINGTON - March 10 - A study released today by consumer group Public Citizen revealed that the lobbying firm of Medicare Commission member Deborah Steelman has been paid nearly $3 million by some of the largest health-related companies and interest groups.

"Deborah Steelman has a major conflict-of-interest," said Frank Clemente, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. "As a member of the Medicare Commission she will vote on issues that have great financial consequence for her largest clients, HMOs and pharmaceutical companies."

Public Citizen’s study shows drug, managed care and other health care organizations paid Steelman’s firm $2.94 million in 1997 and the first half of 1998.

The centerpiece of Commission Chairman Senator John Breaux's proposed restructuring is to move Medicare beneficiaries into HMOs. The pharmaceutical industry has vowed to block any plan for Medicare to cover outpatient prescription drugs in a manner that includes - or could lead to - government negotiated prices or other federally-imposed cost controls that would make the benefit affordable.

As a member of the Commission, Steelman has advocated the position favored by these two industries:

" ‘The drug benefit is the carrot that will get people to join the private plans,’ said Deborah Steelman, a commission member who is a well-known lobbyist representing major pharmaceutical companies and insurers. If the government's traditional plan offers drug coverage, then why would anyone join a managed care plan? Steelman said." -- Los Angeles Times, A15, 1/27/99.

Clemente noted that the other two Commissioners who represent private HMOs say so directly in their Commission biographies. "By contrast, Steelman's bio is deliberately ambiguous. It describes the Law Offices of Deborah Steelman simply as a ‘practice [that] specializes in health care financing and employee benefits.’ The public has a right to know who Deborah Steelman works for and how significantly their interests are affected by the work of the Medicare Commission."

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