UnitedHealth hires former Trump official who helped pick it to dispense recovery funds

Brady is the second Trump administration official involved with the recovery payment program to have a financial connection to UnitedHealth. Steven Parente, then a White House economist, decided the methodology for how to make the initial $30 billion in payments, and he attracted scrutiny because before joining the Trump administration he served as a consultant to UnitedHealth, among other companies. A spokesperson for the Council of Economic Advisers, where Parente worked, said Parente was not responsible for the choice of UnitedHealth to administer the program and had no role in making contracting decisions at HHS. Parente declined to comment.

The choice of UnitedHealth, a leading health insurer, to funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to hospitals and other providers surprised many in health care, including employees at HHS who had assumed that the department would administer the program itself.

This is not the first time Brady has worked in the health insurance industry. From late 2012 to mid-2017, he was associate legal counsel for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. According to his LinkedIn profile, he also is a franchise owner of Jimmy John’s and founded a mobile payment company in 2011.

Brady didn’t respond to a request for comment, but a UnitedHealth spokesperson, Matt Stearns, said that in his role at Optum, Brady will not be working with HHS or have any involvement in disbursing the funds.

“UnitedHealthcare was uniquely positioned to quickly distribute CARES Act funds to health care providers at a time when our nation’s health system needed liquidity, and we were honored to use our experience and expertise to do so,” said Stearns in a statement. “The $1 million fee we received for this work is being used to support family members of our employees affected by Covid-19.”