It’s already clear that congressional and White House leaders really meant it when they promised health care issues will be a top priority in the 108th Congress.
Our schedules have been booked with wall-to-wall meetings and travel as members and staff – including many for whom health care has not previously been a priority – are scrambling to get ideas and initiatives ready for next year.
The PDS plan: The biggest demand is for information about the Prescription Drug Security plan that Joe Antos of AEI and I are developing.
We offer a structure for a privately delivered benefit that gives seniors a choice of plans with competitively negotiated price discounts. It builds an infrastructure for overall modernization of the program around the FEHBP model, provides the greatest subsidies to lower- and moderate-income seniors, and offers a chance for everyone to participate in catastrophic coverage – all goals of the House-passed drug bill. But we structure the subsidies in a new way that’s gaining a lot of attention.
In fact, I am in New Orleans right now where Joe and I are preparing to brief the board of the American Medical Association about our PDS plan at the invitation of VP Jim Rodgers (with Joe and his wife, Lois, arriving only after a harrowing day of snow delays at BWI airport).
Demonstration projects: Last Monday, I was very privileged to be included in Secretary Tommy Thompson’s meeting at the Institute of Medicine, expertly organized by John Hoff and his team at HHS.
Thompson wanted to explore ideas for programs to begin right away, including demonstration projects for medical liability, individual ownership of health insurance, better use of information technologies, prevention, and quality. John brought together a diverse group of health experts, from business to labor to academics, who filled the day with ideas and insights.
It won’t surprise you that I focused on the importance of empowering consumers to be more engaged in decisions about their health care and health spending through tax credits or “health certificates.” The certificates would work like (shhhh? vouchers) redeemable at health insurance companies for major discounts on policies. They would be run through the spending side of the budget rather than through the tax system for those who don’t owe taxes.
Consumer empowerment: The day before the Thompson forum, I was in Palm Springs, California, speaking to the California Medical Association at the invitation of their energetic and able Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. Jack Lewin. My topic was consumer-driven health care, and these docs say “Bring it on!” They are ready for change.
Jack also had the guts to invite three insurance executives to talk to the group, including physician Jack Rowe who heads Aetna. The docs threw barbs at the execs, angry over the control their companies have over their lives and practices, with one coming to the microphone to proudly announce he had been able to fire each of the three companies from his practice. Rowe did the best job of building a bridge between doctors and insurers since he is both. In fact, putting consumers in the driver’s seat will help, forcing the two sides to be partners rather than adversaries.
Next week, I’ll report from Minneapolis and Maine. The temperatures may be freezing there, but health care is hot!