Martinez pick for Health Insurance Exchange brings more ALEC experience and public scandal to NM
Meet the man Governor Martinez just announced is here to connect uninsured individuals and small businesses with affordable health care in New Mexico.
His name is Michael O. Leavitt, a former Bush administration EPA administrator and HHS secretary whose tenure both in and out of office have been marked by scandal.
As EPA administrator, responsible for protecting people from irresponsible emissions from big corporate polluters, Leavitt was a featured speaker at a 2004 ALEC event in Seattle. Note the “ExxonMobil” banner in the background. Yea. No doubt he was telling ExxonMobil and ALEC about new policies restricting fracking in neighborhoods where children played.
Mr. Leavitt’s brief stint with the EPA apparently qualified him to be the nation’s Health and Human Services Secretary. There he earned criticism for using a private jet designed for emergency disease response as his personal private jet more than 90 times. In at least two actual emergencies, the CDC was forced to find alternative transportation because Leavitt was otherwise engaged in political work aboard the aircraft. (good thing Martinez sold NM’s jet)
Fast forward to his private life. Leavitt’s engaged in such egregious behavior that Congress proposed a law to prevent it from ever happening again. News reports outlined the process whereby Leavitt’s foundation and his for-profit company donated more than $500,000 to a student housing scholarship program, received the tax-deduction credits then received all of the money back after the students were placed in Leavitt-owned housing.
A watchdog group said it this way:
“It looks very suspect when the source of the money is the Leavitts, and the beneficiary of the payments of the housing money is also the Leavitts,” says Rick Cohen of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. “I don’t think that the public anticipates that money, put into an entity that is supposed to be something like a philanthropic institution, would be used in a way that directly benefits the people who receive a charitable deduction for their donations. It makes the charitable purpose somewhat suspect.”
That’s the guy Governor Martinez thinks is best suited to protect the interests of small businesses and the uninsured in New Mexico. Come 2014, small businesses and the uninsured (mostly young, old and poor) will be required to obtain health insurance and most will do so through the state-run insurance exchange.
Martinez is responsible for setting that up, and she has delegated that task to Leavitt, along with a $1 million payment.
As a regulator, he was closer to those he regulated than those he was charged to protect (see ALEC and ExxonMobil picture above). As a health secretary he saw no problem with utilizing government emergency health response resources as his own private charter jet company and in private life he funneled hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in charitable money through a non-profit foundation and into his personal bank accounts.
What he will do with the $1,000,000 of taxpayer money Martinez has given him, and the millions more he will have authority over is anyone’s guess. But you can bet that the insurance companies he is responsible for negotiating with are not going into the process with any sweat on their brow.