Single Payer: The Associated Press reports that former Vice President Al Gore “says he now favors single-payer national health coverage, a proposal that would require a massive change in the health insurance system.”
Earth to Gore: Take a look at how the Oregon single-payer initiative crashed and burned in last week’s election once citizens understood the extraordinary costs and upheaval it would cause. If a single-payer system can’t pass in the liberal state of Oregon, where on earth is your voter base for this plan?
FDA: “Herr Professor Doctor Doctor Mark McClellan,” as he was introduced by National Economic Council director Larry Lindsey, was sworn in yesterday in a White House ceremony as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Lindsey said Mark’s charge is to bring regulation “into the 21st century.” Vice President Cheney officiated at the swearing-in, saying that Mark — a physician and economist — is a true “Renaissance Man.”
Mark said that his tenure at the White House has proven you don’t have to choose between good policy and politics. If you have good ideas, you can do both. He said his work in advancing the health policy agenda for President Bush has been “some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.” Onward and upward!
Politics: And speaking of politics, Karl Rove, the president’s chief political adviser, has been making the rounds talking to groups of health policy representatives (like us) and Hill staffers about the importance of making progress on health policy issues in the new Congress. As we wrote last week, for the first time, conservatives are energized about initiatives that put consumers in the driver’s seat to control their own choices about health care and coverage. Strategy sessions are going on all over the place to map an agenda for next year on malpractice reform, Medicare and prescription drugs, and help for the uninsured.
Travel report: I was in Hot Springs, Virginia, last weekend speaking to the Virginia Medical Society about consumer-driven health care. About 200 doctors gathered for a morning session to hear about policy ideas that support this coming transformation in the health sector.
They also heard from several excellent speakers about how to make their practices smarter and more efficient by using information technologies — from the Palm Pilot “ePocrates” software with loads of data on prescription medicines to integrating patient record and billing systems into a single computer system. This is an important part of making the supply side of the revolution toward consumer-driven health care work.
I head for Burlington, Vermont, this weekend to talk about opportunities to create free-market health policy solutions there. The state has a new Republican governor, Jim Douglas, and a Republican House so new things are possible. John McClaughry’s Ethan Allen Institute is hosting the day-long session; Jeff Lemieux of the Progressive Policy Institute also will be presenting.
And finally, the Consensus Group met with several other groups on Wednesday to talk about Medical Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements and the different problems with each. MSAs are still bound by Senator Kennedy’s oppressive rules, and HRAs can’t allow ownership of the personal care account under current tax law. Both need legislative changes to make them more attractive to buyers and to fully engage consumers in making smart buying decisions about their health coverage.