Elizabeth Warren Will Oppose Biden's ‘Deeply Unethical’ Medicare Nominee

The Massachusetts Democrat ripped Demetrios Kouzoukas’ “egregious conflict of interest” as a board member for a health insurance company.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will vote against confirming President Joe Biden’s nominee, Demetrios Kouzoukas, to a key board overseeing the finances of Social Security and Medicare, citing his “deeply unethical” conflicts of interest, HuffPost has learned.

Kouzoukas, who is likely to get his vote in the Senate Finance Committee in the next few weeks, is Biden’s nominee for a public trustee spot on the Board of Trustees for Medicare and Social Security Programs, which oversees the financial operations of both of the massive social safety net programs. The panel is also charged with issuing annual reports to Congress on the financial status of both trust funds.

Warren tore into Kouzoukas last month during his nomination hearing, when he repeatedly refused to say if he would resign from his current position as a board member for Clover Health, a for-profit company that makes money from Medicare Advantage. She specifically pressed Kouzoukas on his salary, which he would not reveal.

“I think you think you’re going to get away with this by just not answering the question, and not having any clip that admits how much money you’re taking from a private insurance company that makes its money through Medicare Advantage,” Warren told him. “And at the same moment that you’re trying to take a public role that will influence whether we focus on the fraud in Medicare Advantage, or whether we turn a blind eye to it.”

The Massachusetts Democrat also warned that he needed to either resign from Clover or withdraw his nomination, or she would oppose him.

In a letter obtained by HuffPost, Kouzoukas last week told Warren that he won’t resign from the insurance company job, and he won’t withdraw his nomination to be a public trustee.

So, Warren confirmed Wednesday that she will vote against his confirmation and will be encouraging her colleagues to do the same.

“This letter makes clear that Mr. Kouzoukas cannot effectively serve on the Board of Trustees for Medicare and Social Security,” she told HuffPost in a statement. “His role as a Board member for a Medicare Advantage insurer is in direct conflict with his responsibilities to the public, and he cannot resolve this deeply unethical and egregious conflict of interest.”

Here’s a copy of Kouzoukas’s letter:

In his letter, Kouzoukas defended his decision to keep his job on the health insurance company board by claiming that trustees’ reports don’t address “topics like ‘overpayments’ to Medicare advantage plans.”

But these annual reports have mentioned risk score-related overpayments numerous times since 2011, according to Warren’s office. Beyond that, Medicare Advantage has been overcharging the federal government by as much as $140 billion per year, according to a report released this month by Physicians for a National Health Program, an advocacy group that supports transitioning to a single-payer health insurance system.

Warren is the only Democratic senator so far who has raised concerns with Kouzoukas, but some progressive groups have been urging his defeat. Social Security Works, a grassroots advocacy group focused on protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, launched a petition earlier this month calling on senators to tank Kouzoukas’ nomination.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 26,000 people had signed it.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kouzoukas is officially a Biden nominee, but he was put forward to the White House by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). That’s because the Board of Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Fund has slots for two public trustees, one chosen by Republicans and one by Democrats.

Given that Kouzoukas is a GOP pick, Warren’s vote against him in committee won’t tank his nomination there, unless all other Democrats lined up in opposition, too.

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