Former WellPoint VP Liz Fowler to Implement Health Care Oversight

Remember Liz Fowler? The former WellPoint VP whom William Ockham noted was the literal author of the health care reform bill?

I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to learn that WellPoint’s former VP will be in charge of consumer issues and oversight as our country implements the WellPoint/Liz Fowler health insurance bill. (h/t Glenn Greenwald)

Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Liz Fowler is an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated adviser, and while I’m very proud of her new position, she will certainly be missed at the committee,” Baucus said in a statement Tuesday.


Obama and fellow Democrats have been promoting what they say are positive aspects of the reform bill, while the Health and Human Services Department is drafting many rules to implement to complex measure.

So Liz Fowler, WellPoint’s gal, will be writing the rules implementing the law (the rules that will determine whether this is a worthless bill or a decent one), particularly those designed to protect (cough) consumers and oversee companies like…WellPoint.

This is the kind of “oversight” that resulted in the BP disaster.

And remember Obama’s lobbyist restrictions? The ones that prevent someone from working in the Executive Branch on an issue that they’ve lobbied Congress on for two years? Fowler was not a registered lobbyist; rather, she was the VP of Public Policy and External Affairs. But in any case, it appears that Fowler returned to MaxTax Baucus’ staff on March 4, 2008, so nothing prevents the former VP of WellPoint from writing the “consumer and oversight” rules that are the only thing protecting Americans from policies — like WellPoint’s — that screw consumers.

It’s a nice trick: send your VP to write a law mandating that the middle class buy shitty products like yours, then watch that VP move into the executive branch to “oversee” the implementation of the law. What could go wrong?!?!

Why Don’t Big Media Matt and Ezra Ever Use the Word “Profit”?

I got to this Matt Yglesias post and this Ezra Klein post via this Joke Line post (which sends you on a wild goose chase in search of this Ezra post) via this Lawyers Guns and Money post. I’ll return to Joke Line if I get a hankering to whack a piiñata.

But in the meantime, I’m wondering why Big Media Matt and Ezra don’t ever use the word, "profit"?

Both, you see, struggle to talk about how cool insurance companies are and how they could be the route to huge cost savings. Matt, apparently taking issue with this post (which never claimed identifying Liz Fowler’s role in the Max Tax was a "big scoop"), uses two farcical hypothetical examples to suggest that it’s not a bad thing for our public legislature to be proposing legislation written by private industry. First, he argues that a plan that uses public funds to improve bus routes would make both bus riders and bus drivers happier, which would be a good use of tax dollars.

Well, for starters you would want the buses to run more frequently. That would require, among other things, additional buses and additional bus drivers. That’s something the union representing bus drivers would like, and also something that companies that build buses would like. You could even imagine such a plan being hatched in close collaboration with the Transit Worker’s Union and the insidious forces of Big Bus. That, however, wouldn’t make the plan bad for New York City bus riders. It would be good for New York City bus riders. The city would be using tax dollars to give more buses to bus riders—it’s win-win for bus riders and bus drivers and bus makers all.

Note, first of all, how hilariously in-apt this analogy is. He’s talking about NY Transit–run by the public benefit corporation MTA and ultimately accountable to elected  officials (the private parts of which, though, have a history of paying bus workers less money for the same work). He’s talking about a highly regulated monopoly. So it’d be a great example to use if we were discussing implementing a government health service, or at the very least a public plan. But of course we’re not. So in Matt’s first analogy, he can avoid discussing whether "Big Bus" (as he calls it) would have objectives that might differ from those of both the riders and the workers, as well as the clout to piggyback those objectives on top of the plan to increase route frequency.

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The Max Baucus WellPoint/Liz Fowler Plan


All this time I’ve been calling Max Tax health care Max Baucus’ health care plan.

But, as William Ockham points out, it’s actually Liz Fowler’s health care plan (if you open the document and look under document properties, it lists her as author). At one level, it’s not surprising that Bad Max’s Senior Counsel would have authored the Max Tax plan. Here’s how Politico described her role in Bad Max’s health care plan earlier this year:

If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer. 

As a senior aide to Baucus, she directs the Finance Committee health care staff, enforces deadlines on drafting bill language and coordinates with the White House and other lawmakers. She also troubleshoots, identifying policy and political problems before they ripen. 

“My job is to get from point A to point B,” said Fowler, who’s training for four triathlons this summer in between her long days on Capitol Hill.

Fowler learned as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania that the United States was the only industrialized country without universal health care, and she decided then to dedicate her professional life to the work. 

She first worked for Baucus from 2001 through 2005, playing a key role in negotiating the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Feeling burned out, she left for the private sector but rejoined Baucus in 2008, sensing that a Democratic-controlled Congress would make progress on overhauling the health care system. 

Baucus and Fowler spent a year putting the senator in a position to pursue reform, including holding hearings last summer and issuing a white paper in November. They deliberately avoided releasing legislation in order to send a signal of openness and avoid early attacks. 

“People know when Liz is speaking, she is speaking for Baucus,” said Dean Rosen, the health policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

What neither Politico nor Bad Max himself want you to know, though, is that in the two years before she came back to the Senate to help Max craft the Max Tax plan, she worked as VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint.

So to the extent that Liz Fowler is the Author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well.