WASHINGTON - A hospital lobbyist who was known as a budget "whiz kid" in the first Bush administration has been chosen by the second President Bush to take over the Baltimore-based Health Care Financing Administration.
The White House is expected to announce the appointment of Thomas A. Scully, 43, who is the head of a trade group that represents 1,700 privately owned hospitals, within the next few days.
In his new post, Scully would run the agency in Woodlawn that administers Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program for low-income families.
Scully would also be expected to work to help persuade Congress to approve Bush's proposals to modernize Medicare and add a prescription drug benefit.
Scully brings to the job long political and administrative credentials. He is close to the Bush family, having worked on Bush campaigns since former President George Bush made his first White House run in 1980.
Most recently, Scully acted as an informal campaign adviser on health issues to the current President Bush.
In the first Bush administration, Scully served on the White House budget staff, carving out a specialty in health care policy and focusing on Medicaid payment reform.
As a private lobbyist since 1993, Scully has represented health care providers as Congress wrestled with proposals for expanding insurance coverage while trying to rein-in costs.
In 1995, he assumed his current post as head of the Federation of American Hospitals, which put him in the thick of the 1997 balanced budget debate that resulted in such deep cuts to Medicare providers that Congress has been forced to restore much of the funding since then.
A 1979 graduate of the University of Virginia, Scully earned a law degree from Catholic University.
Scully's selection for the Health Care Financing Administration post, which requires Senate approval, is expected to be greeted warmly by both parties.
"He's almost a perfect match for the job," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore Democrat who is active on health care issues. "He's a person who understands the system from both sides, he has good political skills and he has solid credentials as an administrator."
"He's respected by Democrats as well as Republicans because he's a straight shooter," Cardin said. "You can rely on what he tells you."
It may prove to be an advantage to employees to have their agency led by a Republican who is familiar with the details of their work.
In recent years, Republicans have made the financing administration one of their favorite whipping boys, perhaps second only to the Internal Revenue Service. In administering the federal health programs, critics complain, the agency has been inefficient and arbitrary in paying claims and providing services.