April 8, 2013

Health care Compass reflects conflict of interest

Rep. Ann Dorney's Maine Compass about Medicaid expansion (March 28) noted that she is a first-term Democratic state representative from Norridgewock.

Dorney also noted that she has "been a practicing family doctor in Skowhegan for more than 30 years" and ran for office "with the hope of bringing my medical experience and knowledge to the Legislature." She expressed an interest in increasing access and lowering costs in public and private health care.

Nowhere in this op-ed, in the Legislature or in the Committee on Health and Human Services, however, does Dorney note that she works at Skowhegan Family Medicine, which is a department of Redington-Fairview General Hospital. In other words, Dorney failed to point out she is not an independent physician, but, like about 70 percent of the doctors in Maine, she is a hospital employee.

As an employee of a Maine hospital, therefore, Dorney has a conflict of interest on matters dealing with hospitals, a conflict that should be explicitly stated by Dorney when dealing with health care policy and legislation. The conflict also should oblige her to recuse herself from actively participating in public hearings and work sessions about hospital-related issues and certainly from voting whether hospital bills "ought to pass."

Dorney recently was active in the Health and Human Services Committee at the public hearing and work session concerning the question of the repeal of the certificate of need for investment in health care in Maine. The lobbyist for the Maine Hospital Association and the lobbyist for Maine Health were the major speakers testifying against repeal.

At no time did Dorney acknowledge what I believe is a conflict of interest, and she voted that this bill "ought not to pass."

We have a right to expect higher ethical standards from our elected representatives.

Louis T. Sigel


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