Reinhardt called out for conflicts of interest

Bloggers and online journalists (Health Care Renewal, the nytpicker, Business Insider) have noticed that Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt, who writes for The New York TimesEconomix blog and was the keynote speaker at Health Journalism 2009, earns $500,000 a year working for a number of health care companies, owns about $5 million in related stock, and thus appears to be in violation of The New York Timesconflict-of-interest policy. The conflicts are not yet listed on his Times bio, though the newspaper and Reinhardt both promise they will be soon.

Uwe Reinhardt at Health Journalism 2009
Uwe Reinhardt at Health Journalism 2009

Business Insider’s Lauren Hatch got Reinhardt’s response. The economist said he has never “shilled” for a company, and that his connections enhance, rather than skew, his blogging. He does, however, acknowledge the apparent conflict of interest.

“I guess I have to take the rap for this, but I don’t see it as an ethical lapse,” (Reinhardt) told (Business Insider) in a phone interview. “It never occurred to me. My board memberships are public knowledge.”

“When all is said and done, they pointed it out and that’s good. I had no intent to be unethical or deceitful. I have talked to the New York Times and soon my board memberships will be added to the bio so everyone can see it.”

As of 3 p.m. Eastern on April 8, those conflicts have not yet been disclosed on his bio. The Business Insider story was posted on April 6.

The New York Times, for its part, provided Business Insider with the following statement:

“Professor Reinhardt is a leading expert on the economics of health care, and has provided valuable and independent insights in his blog posts. He has mentioned his service on corporate boards in the blog, but we are reviewing how to more fully describe his activities for readers of Economix.”

According to nytpicker, which seems to have come to the story first, Reinhardt is involved with at least five private health-related enterprises, for which he is being compensated with both cash and stock options. Those include Amerigroup Corporation, Boston Scientific, H&Q Healthcare Investors and H&Q Life Sciences Investors, and Legacy Hospital partners.

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