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Evan Bayh: Hypocrisy on the Public Option

Stocks in this article: WLP EMMS LLY

He points out that lobbyists for his wife's companies aren't allowed contact with his staff as proof of the ethical wall that exists.

Yet Evan Bayh, Susan Bayh and WellPoint seem to share almost identical views on health care and the current public option debate. Bayh recently refused to commit to voting for cloture on a bill with a public option saying: "It's not fair to ask people to facilitate the enactment of policies with which we ultimately disagree."

Susan Bayh recently argued to Business Week that, "Traditional Medicare pays for quantity rather than quality, and all of the pilot programs that were intended to help government change that ... have failed." She strongly opposes any public option and instead supports reforms that would require everyone to own private insurance plans so that "everyone is in the pool."

WellPoint, the largest health insurer in the country, has 80 million customers who buy private insurance. It would greatly benefit from any government initiative to encourage more people to buy more private insurance. To that end, WellPoint spent $2.6 million in campaign contributions in 2008 for Democrat and Republican candidates. (Evan Bayh himself received more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from the health care industry in 2008.)

While my personal views on health care favor a market-based rather than a government-based solution, I find the hypocrisy of Evan Bayh highly offensive. You would have to be clueless not to see the conflict of interest of his views on this topic and the personal gain his family stands to reap as a result of his wife's connection to WellPoint, if his stated views -- in the name of his constituents -- are seen through.

Evan Bayh, Susan Bayh and WellPoint all look bad here. Until he recuses himself from votes on health care or she resigns from the WellPoint board, criticism of them on this topic will deservedly continue.

-- Written by Eric Jackson in Naples, Fla.

Editor's note: Here is a sampling of some of the reader email received on this column.

At the time of publication, Jackson had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

Eric Jackson is founder and president of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd.

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