Ethics Questions: State Panel to Examine Conflict Claims

Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

At the request of a national consumer group, a New York state ethics body is examining whether members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Medicaid policy team ran afoul of conflicts-of-interest laws.

The Center for Justice and Democracy on Tuesday submitted a formal ethics complaint to the Public Integrity Commission, which regulates ethics laws over New York state agency employees.

The Manhattan-based, nonprofit group, which often takes positions favorable to the plaintiffs' bar, asserted that members of the policy team are public employees and are covered by state laws restricting officials from mixing state duties with financial interests.

The complaint focuses on four hospital-affiliated members of Mr. Cuomo's team, including the heads of state's two major hospital associations. It claims that those groups inappropriately benefited from the team's final recommendations to cap pain-and-suffering in malpractice awards at $250,000 and to create a medical indemnity fund to help hospitals pay for the costs of treating brain-damaged infants.

The measures, both backed by the hospital industry, could leave hospitals with more money than they stand to lose from proposed Medicaid cuts.

"You've basically given the hospitals carte blanche to rewrite the judicial system," said Joanne Doroshow, the executive director of the center and a former aide to Ralph Nader. "There's something fundamentally undemocratic about that."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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