Jeb Bush and Tenet: The other side of the coin

Robert Potts has done his service to those who do not want Jeb Bush to be the Republican nominee for President in 2016 with a pretty weak attempt at guilt by association.  Potts informs us that Bush made some solid money as a Board member of Tenet Healthcare starting in 2007.  I never thought this would be a crime for a Republican, or for that matter anyone else, and seems to be more the type of thing you would hear from Occupy Wall Street, or the anti-Romney private equity ads developed by Barack Obama's campaign in  2012.

We also learn from Potts that Tenet Healthcare supported Obamacare. This too is a no brainer-- every major healthcare company supported the legislation, since it would mean more paying patients. It is the same reason why insurance companies are all very pleased with Obamacare as well at this point, since the federal government is making it more likely that they will have a larger customer base, with significant amounts of their premiums paid by the federal government.

Potts' biggest concerns seem to be Tenet's troubled history, and the major settlements it has agreed to over the years. On this he is on more solid ground at least as far as Tenet's history. But his article makes clear that virtually all of the problems he identifies occurred before Bush became a Board member. Is it possible that Bush played a role as a Board member in getting the company to settle and clean up its baggage and behave more responsibly? Potts never interviewed Bush or any other Tenet board member or executive, best I can tell, so he does not know what role Bush played. But he is comfortable listing all the things Tenet did wrong before 2007 when Bush had no role in the company. 

He mentions a few isolated offenses since 2007, but these are nowhere on the scale of what occurred earlier, and he has no information on what role Bush played when these events came to the Board's attention. In every large hospital chain, there will be some bad actors. This is the case in not for-profit chains as well. Tenet is hardly alone among hospital management companies in having had to pay fines and settlements. Think of HCA and Rick Scott. I do not think Scott was a crook or personally behaved badly, but the company decided to settle up and move on when the Frist brothers took back control.

Tenet is today a successful expanding company (the second largest hospital management chain).  It is problematic, I think, for Potts to suggest that everyone associated with the company today has to answer for misdeeds that may have occurred years earlier, in many cases before they started any association with the company.

I am not supporting Jeb Bush for President. I will not pick a candidate until I know who is in the field. I have never worked as an employee for Tenet or any of its predecessor companies, though one of them, National Medical Enterprises tried to hire me in 1985 to run mergers and acquisition for their hospital division. I have been a health care consultant for 40 years, and have worked on projects both for and against Tenet. I was highly critical of Tenet in the years before Bush became a Board member. I believe they have been a much better behaved company the last few years. Maybe Jeb deserves to get some credit for that, rather than the scorn he receives from Potts. Helping turn around a troubled company is a good credential for a lot of jobs.