Would Jeb Bush Take On His Former Business Partners in the Hospital Industry to Repeal Obamacare?

The former Florida governor made over $2 million from a hospital conglomerate that supports Obamacare and stands in the way of badly needed conservative health-care reforms. In early 2007, Tenet Healthcare Corp., the giant, publicly traded hospital conglomerate, was reeling. The previous year, the company had been forced to agree to a $900 million settlement with the Justice Department in a Medicare-fraud scandal. Seeking to improve its reputation, Tenet turned to Jeb Bush, offering the former Florida governor a seat on its board of directors. In the more than seven years Bush served on Tenet’s board, the company executed a remarkable turnaround, emerging from the scandal into a period of expansion that returned it to the top of the health-care industry. Bush himself benefited handsomely from the growth. Last year alone, he earned $170,000 in stock awards and $188,000 in fees. He earned over $2 million during the seven years he served on the Tenet board and sold $1.1 million worth of stock in 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Support for Obamacare has driven Tenet’s renewed success. “Early on we push hard to be contracted with as many exchange plans as possible,” CEO Trevor Fetter said on an earnings call last summer, referring to the health-care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Tenet also promoted the law’s enrollment drive. “We are confident at least 16,000 people enrolled in exchange-based products and tens of thousands more enrolled in Medicaid as a result of our efforts,” Fetter said. Bush resigned from his lucrative position at Tenet late in 2014, in anticipation of a presidential run. That puts him in the uncomfortable position of leaving an industry that supports Obamacare in order to seek the nomination of a Republican party committed to the repeal of the law. Bush navigated that conflict during the legislative debate by staying silent in public, while making clear in board meetings that he opposed the law but recognized the difference between “personal views and what is best for the company,” Fetter told the New York Times. If he hopes to dismantle Obamacare as president, he’ll have to show a greater willingness to fight the hospital lobby than he displayed to his former colleagues.