Top Medtronic executive enlisted in healthcare reform group

November 11, 2010 by MedCity News

Medtronic senior executive Dr. Richard Kuntz named to board of governors of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

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Medtronic Inc. (NYSE:MDT) has long viewed comparative effectiveness research with a wary eye.

While publicly supporting the goals of lowering healthcare costs, the company fears CER — the idea that the government should pay only for treatments that compare favorably to other therapies — could shut out certain medical devices.

So the company must have been pleased when one of its top executives recently was named to the board of governors of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

PCORI is a private, non-profit organization charged with advising the feds on how to fund and prioritize CER efforts and a key component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. President Obama's stimulus program already allocated $1.1 billion to CER, including $400 million to the National Institutes of Health to test whether new medical technologies really represent improvements on existing therapies.

PCORI includes a mix of academics, doctors, advocacy groups and industry officials, including Dr. Richard Kuntz, Medtronic senior vice president and chief scientific, clinical and reimbursement officer.

Dr. Kuntz, a member of Medtronic's Executive Committee, oversees "global regulatory affairs, health policy and reimbursement, clinical research activities, ventures and new therapies, strategy and innovation, corporate development, and acquisitions, integrations and divestitures functions," according to his company bio.

Republicans have vowed to block federal healthcare reform by denying or restricting funds to things they don't like, including more resources for the Internal Revenue Service to make sure people purchase health insurance.

PCORI may not fare any better. Throughout the contentious debate over the reform bill, Republicans and some Democrats exhibited disdain for CER, which they equate to rationing of care.