What former HHS Secretary Shalala says she did with profits from UnitedHealth stock

Democratic candidate Donna Shalala
Democratic candidate Donna Shalala

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala supports universal access to healthcare but remains heavily invested in one of the country’s largest for-profit health insurers.

A newly filed financial disclosure shows that Shalala, a leading Democrat in the campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress, continues to hold as much as $1.1 million in stocks and options in UnitedHealth Group. Shalala took a seat on the corporate board after leaving President Bill Clinton’s cabinet and was compensated in part through company shares before stepping down in 2007.

Though her relationship with UnitedHealth is well-known, the extent of Shalala’s continued investment in the company — and her sale of more than $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock last year — was detailed for the first time Friday when she filed her federally required financial disclosure. The form, which requires candidates to disclose their assets and income in ranges, placed her net worth somewhere between $4.6 million and $13.5 million.

Shalala is running in the Democratic primary against Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson and Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. After seeing Shalala’s disclosure, Richardson suggested she’s reluctant to back a Medicare-for-all bill filed in Congress due to her stake in the industry.

“It is now clear that Donna Shalala has refused to support the ‘Medicare for All’ bill in Congress because it takes profits out of our healthcare system,” said Richardson, who’s run commercials casting Shalala as a flip-flopper on universal healthcare.

Shalala bristled Tuesday when asked if her financial stake in the industry influenced her public positions.

She has said she doesn’t support the bill Richardson mentioned because it lacks provisions for nursing-home care and home healthcare and other forms of “long-term care.” She supports a public healthcare option over Medicare for All, she says, because she wants to ensure people won’t be forced to give up private health plans in order to adopt less comprehensive public insurance.

Shalala told the Miami Herald that her position on healthcare has been consistent dating back to when she oversaw Hunter College in the 1980s, and said her stake in UnitedHealth has never swayed her politics.

“It doesn’t. It never has. I’ve never changed my position on universal healthcare from the time I’ve been working on the issue. Literally from the time I’ve been working on the issue,” she said. “I’ve been working in healthcare a long time and I’ve been teaching the politics and economics of healthcare for 30 years. So I’m considered an expert on the policy issues.”

Shalala wasn’t sure exactly how much stock she continues to own in UnitedHealth, but said it’s much closer to $500,000 than $1 million. She said the money she made from selling company stock last year — listed between $100,000 and $1 million — was not pocketed, but “donated to a variety of different charities or individuals who I was helping to go to school.”

“I gave it away. I gave it to lots of people. Lots of people,” she said. “I’ve given away my fees for years.”

According to her disclosure, Shalala is also invested in an array of companies through mutual funds and investment accounts, and holds a significant amount of her wealth in the Wisconsin Retirement System, and a 457(b) plan through the University of Miami, where she was the longtime president before leaving to lead the Clinton Foundation. But it appears her most valuable assets are the stock she continues to hold in the companies where she’s served on corporate boards, including UnitedHealth, home-builder Lennar and Mednax, a healthcare company specializing in pediatric medicine.

Shalala also holds small investments in the energy sector, including FT North American Energy, Chevron Corporation, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, Sempra Energy and NextEra Energy, the parent company to Florida Power and Light. She also keeps small amounts of stock in Amgen, Pfizer, Raytheon and ACADIA Pharmaceuticals.

Last year, she disclosed $860,000 in “earned income” through work for Lennar, Mednax, the University of Miami, Tegna, and to a lesser extent Harvard University and the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. So far, this year, she’s earned $134,000 from most of the same entities.

Shalala, who filed her disclosure after receiving two extensions, is easily the wealthiest of the five Democrats running to replace Ros-Lehtinen.

In disclosures filed in June, Former Miami Herald reporter and Knight Foundation executive Haggman listed his net worth between roughly $1.4 million and $3.7 million. The assets he listed, including those of his wife, Danet Linares, include five life insurance policies, a slew of IRA accounts, and Danet Linares P.A. The couple reported approximately $250,000 in income during the previous year, including $103,870 from Haggman’s job with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which he left in July.

Hepburn, an academic adviser with the University of Miami, listed no assets. He reported $27,000 in income last year through his job at UM and reported between $100,000 and $250,000 in student loans.

Richardson’s assets are worth between $1.25 million and $2.5 million. He disclosed between $500,000 and $1 million in a tax-deferred IRA-type account, and roughly the same amount invested in a Fidelity government money market fund. He listed between $15,000 and $50,000 in income from Student Transportation Inc (a school bus contractor), and between $100,000 and $1 million from SYW LP, a New York-based hedge fund.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez listed assets that include her Alton Road home, which she valued north of $1 million and a trust fund she valued between $500,000 and $1 million. She said she can’t touch the trust fund until she’s 60. She is paying off a home mortgage worth between $250,000 and $500,000.

Rosen Gonzalez earned about $76,000 last year from her job as a Miami Dade College professor and her salary as a Miami Beach commissioner.