Former Medicare administrator takes health care job at law firm

December 19, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Thomas A. Scully, the federal official who ran Medicare and Medicaid for the past 2 1/2 years, announced yesterday that he was joining Alston & Bird, an Atlanta-based law firm that represents many hospitals, drug manufacturers and other companies in the health care industry.

Scully stepped down Monday as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services that provides health insurance to more than 75 million people.

Ben F. Johnson III, managing partner of Alston & Bird, said that as an architect of the new Medicare law, Scully would add "an unparalleled perspective" to the firm's health care practice.

Alston & Bird has many clients that will be affected by the law. The firm is registered to lobby Congress for Johnson & Johnson and for the National Association for Home Care.

Scully was the object of a bidding war among law firms and private equity investment firms. Johnson said Scully would be allowed to work for an investment firm while he was a partner at Alston & Bird.

In May, before the House or Senate approved the Medicare bill, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson approved a waiver that exempted Scully from certain provisions of the federal ethics law.

The waiver allowed Scully to negotiate with potential employers while he helped write the Medicare law. For example, Johnson said he discussed the possibility that Scully might join the firm when the two men had dinner in Atlanta on Sept. 15. They did not discuss the Medicare legislation or "any matter pending" before the Medicare agency, Johnson said.

A summary of ethics rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services says employees who have begun seeking jobs in the private sector must immediately recuse themselves from "any official matter" that involves the prospective employer.

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