Another potential conflict of interest that Lanier Cansler will have to negotiate as Secretary of DHHS is his association with the nursing home industry. His firm Cansler Fuquay Solutions represented the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association (NCHCFA) until December 23, 2008 when his partner Gary Fuquay resigned as a lobbyist for the trade organization.
Medicaid billing is a huge factor in nursing home operations as Medicaid represents up to 75% of revenues. Nursing home reimbursements are a small but significant of all Medicaid spending in the State which now will be managed by another company which was represented until recently by Lanier Cansler.
Cansler is one of just two people still listed on the NCHCFA website as directors of the organization’s subsidiary FutureCare NC. The other director is J Craig Souza, Executive Director of NCHCFA. Directorship of a non-profit might seem unremarkable except that Souza earns annual compensation in excess of $500,000 to represent an industry that gets much of its revenue through State government from the Federal government.
Souza may be the most influential person in NC you have never heard of. He got his start in the 1970’s in the Holshouser administration working under Dave Flaherty, head of the DHHS precursor known as the Department of Human Resources. Flaherty went on to run unsuccessfully for Governor against Jim Hunt. Souza’s career since has involved representing and lobbying of health care industry interests.
Souza is an Eastern North Carolinian who became an ECU Trustee and has been a member of the UNC Board of Governors for several years. He is credited with bringing a School of Nursing to ECU. The new School of Dentistry at ECU is a client of Cansler Fuquay Solutions which has been researching potential locations for community dental clinics in Eastern NC.
Souza is not known to make political contributions but is associated with lobbying and politics. He is the owner of Vinnie’s Steakhouse & Tavern in Raleigh, scene of Jim Black’s “last supper”, a private dinner attended by 20 Democratic House members and several lobbyists where Black announced his decision not to run for Speaker. The restaurant has private rooms named “The Caucus Room”, The Chamber” and “The Gallery” and was popular with lobbyists at least until spending restrictions triggered in part by Black’s excesses.
Cansler may well be qualified to run DHHS but he’ll have to work extra hard to avoid conflicts of interest with the private sector he’ll be charged with overseeing.