FCTR: Bill Frist, Step Aside


The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), a non-profit, non-partisan consumer education and advocacy organization, urges an immediate Ethics Committee investigation into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's personal and financial ties to the HCA hospital chain and to its subsidiary malpractice insurer Health Care Indemnity (HCI), with specific focus on the conflict of interest inherent in Frist's advocacy for recent legislation to limit hospital and malpractice insurer liability. We believe this conflict should disqualify Senator Frist from involvement in any legislation concerning liability limits benefiting hospitals and malpractice insurers, and can no longer be overlooked.

Majority Leader Frist's Senate financial disclosures reveal that he, and his wife and children, hold millions of dollars in HCA stock. Documents filed with the Senate Office of Public Records at the end of the year 2000 indicate that HCA stock worth at least $10,150,000, and up to $30,350,000 or more, was transferred into Frist family blind trusts in December, 2000. The trust agreements note that "the assets initially contributed by him [Frist] to this Trust are concentrated in the stock of HCA, the Healthcare Company," and reveal that trustees were specifically relieved "from any obligation the Trustee might otherwise have to diversify the investments." At least $1,125,000, and as much as $2,320,000, in HCA stock has been contributed to the trusts since December, 2000, while just under $625,000 has been sold. Despite the "blind" moniker for these trusts, these disclosures reveal to the public, and importantly to Frist himself, that the family's fortune rests upon the welfare of HCA. The "blind" trusts prohibit Frist from managing his investments, but they do not stop him from knowing what they consist of.

We are aware that this committee once before considered the issue of whether Senator Frist faced a conflict while voting on general health care legislation. However, Senator Frist's current involvement in the medical malpractice debate rises beyond the level of general concern for health issues to specific advocacy for his family's company.