Sunday, July 08, 2012

Shelley Berkley's Ethical Shortcomings

Considering how the dean of the Nevada delegation used his seat to enrich himself, she's just carrying on an old state tradition
Berkley’s husband is Dr. Larry Lehrner, a nephrologist. Lehner is also managing partner of Kidney Specialists of Southern Nevada (KSSN). KSSN was contracted with Nevada’s University Medical Center (UMC) for nephrology services; KSSN earned just under $600,000 under the contract. Within a year of the signing of that contract, the federal government – under the auspices of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- revoked UMC’s kidney transplant program and ended Medicare financing for it, thanks to high death rates in the unit – “more than twice the expected level,” according to the New York Times.

That’s when Berkley stepped in. She protested CMS’ decertification and defunding, then set up calls between UMC and CMS. Then she called up Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and the head of the CMS. Berkley’s aim: keep the program open.

CMS ended up reversing the order. In fact, UMC had to expand its kidney staff – and KSSN got an even bigger contract. Now it earned $738,000 per year. Not coincidentally, employees of KSSN handed over cash to Berkley’s election campaigns.


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