WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today asked the top government health care agency for a timeline and details of the communications on a key Medicare policy decision this week that reportedly moved stock prices when correctly predicted by an outside firm prior to public release.
Grassley asked Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for the details on a key decision on Monday over Medicare Advantage payment rates. According to the Wall Street Journal, a firm call Height Securities issued an advisory that “a deal has been hatched to protect Medicare Advantage rates” from a proposed cut, and that stocks rose as a result of the advisory. The advisory was issued before CMS’ decision became public, raising questions about whether CMS or other federal agencies involved in the decision allowed sensitive information to flow to non-governmental entities before the government made its announcement.
“This raises questions regarding political intelligence brokers’ ability to gather information from CMS in order to predict market moving events,” Grassley wrote.
Grassley asked for a response by April 9, when Tavenner comes before the Finance Committee for a hearing on her nomination to serve as permanent administrator.
This is the second time in recent years Grassley has asked the agency to describe its processes for dealing with political intelligence firms and others who seek to profit from government information. In December 2011, he wrote to the agency over allegations from a then-agency employee who said nearly one dozen agency employees were made to have a lengthy meeting with a Wall Street firm in 2009 over reimbursement policy for certain medical devices.
The agency’s response revealed loose procedures for dealing with outside firms, causing continued concern for Grassley. Grassley is working on a legislative effort to require political intelligence-gathering firms to register the way lobbyists are required to register, in an effort to provide transparency into a growing industry that seeks information from Congress, the federal agencies, and the White House for financial gain, possibly to the disadvantage of everyday investors.
Grassley’s letter today is available here.