The Summit

The White House Conference on the Economy, held this week in Washington, was a huge success, vividly demonstrating how public policy affects real people and emphasizing the serious need for tax, health, and entitlement reform so America can ?stay on the leading edge of innovation? in a 21st century global economy.

The president joined in two of the six panel discussions (on Social Security and lawsuit abuse). HHS Secretary Thompson chaired our panel on ?Making Healthcare More Affordable.? You can read my introductory statement here.

Some highlights:

? In his concluding speech on Thursday, President Bush insisted ?now is the time to confront problems? and warned: ?Great economies do not get weak all at once. They’re kind of eaten away ? year by year, by challenges that people just refuse to meet. Slowly but surely, an economy, a great economy can be eroded to the point of mediocrity. This nation must never settle for mediocrity. This nation must always, always strive for the best and leave behind a better America for our children and our grandchildren.?

? He reiterated his plans to tackle bold initiatives and got the biggest applause for his commitment to begin creating personal savings accounts for younger workers.

? On our health care panel on Wednesday, a self-employed graphics artist, Chris Krupinski, told her story of why a Health Savings Account works so well for this widow with three children who has struggled to provide health insurance for her family. Instead of paying $900 a month in premiums, she now pays $390 for high-deductible insurance and puts $290 aside in her HSA. ?Rah, rah, rah!? she said when Sec. Thompson asked how she really felt.

? The president used her example in his concluding remarks to emphasize his common goal on health reform: ?In all we do to reform health care, we’ve got to make sure the decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in our nation’s capital.?

? And finally, the president said that just this week, he signed up for his own HSA through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan!

The event was a class act. Presidential advisor Doug Badger did an extraordinary job of assembling and preparing our panel, and presidential liaison Steve Lineberry was amazing in thinking of every detail to make sure it came off without a hitch.

One of the highlights for the panelists was a reception with the president where he stayed for an hour to talk with everyone and say how much he appreciated people telling their stories. It was such an honor and a wonderful opportunity to participate, and thanks to so many of you who sent well wishes.

C-SPAN covered the two-day conference gavel to gavel. Video of the healthcare panel is available at rtsp:// (Open with RealPlayer).


Yet another honor: Bob Helms, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute and the dean of the health policy community, and I are honored to have been named by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to serve on the National Advisory Council for Health Care Research and Quality.

The 21-member council meets several times during the year to provide advice and recommendations on priorities for a national health services research agenda to Carolyn Clancy, M.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and to the Secretary of HHS.

This is a great opportunity to provide input for the agency’s research agenda. You know where Bob and I will be coming from in advancing new ideas?


Sign up now! A new ?Citizens’ Health Care Working Group? is being appointed to ?lead a nationwide public debate on ways to improve the health care system to provide every American with the ability to obtain quality and affordable health care coverage.? The 14-member panel will make recommendations to the President and the Congress on health policy reforms.

We need free-market advocates to serve on this council! If you are interested, you can apply on-line at Citizens’ Health Care Working Group Application.


We were disappointed that the esteemed Dr. Mark McClellan was not named as HHS secretary, with the nod going instead to former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt.

I had a chance to work with former governor and now EPA administrator Leavitt several years ago when he was a speaker and participant in the annual Health Sector Assembly meeting held each October in Utah. Gov. Leavitt has been a leader in introducing innovative Medicaid programs to expand coverage in the state, and President Bush has once again affirmed his confidence in the leadership ability of governors to run his cabinet departments.

We believe that the president decided that Mark was invaluable at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in getting the enormously complicated Medicare law and new drug benefit up and running. The president clearly looked around and realized no one else could fill Mark’s shoes in that job. But there will be another day for Mark to get the top job. The vision and the understanding he brings to all aspects of health care are unsurpassed.


The policy agenda: We listed in a recent newsletter the top ten initiatives that we believe can be moved forward in the new Congress. Here’s a link to our thoughts as you make your own priority list.

Be sure to watch for a detailed article next week by Merrill Matthews in the Weekly Standard in which he also outlines health policy initiatives for the next Congress. He describes the outlook for the Bush agenda of tax credits for the uninsured, expansion of HSAs, the option to buy health insurance across state lines, expansion of high-risk pool funding, and tax breaks for long-term care insurance.


New HSA Guidebook: HealthEquity, a leader in the administration and sales of Health Savings Accounts, has produced The Complete HSA Guidebook, under the direction of CEO Steve Neeleman, M.D. This 200-page book provides a detailed, comprehensive description of the basics and complexities of implementing HSAs, and I recommend it to you. There is a small fee, which gets you the book and free monthly updates.


Christmas break: The Galen Institute will be open and active over the holidays preparing for several major events right after the first of the year. But our newsletter, Health Policy Matters, will take a break and return the first week in January.

All of us at the Galen Institute wish you and your family all the blessings of this holy season.

Grace-Marie Turner



Is There A Medical Malpractice Problem, And If So, What Is It?

Maryland Public Policy Institute Event

Monday, December 20, 2004, 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Annapolis, Maryland

For additional details and RSVP information, go to:

Health Policy Matters is a weekly newsletter containing summaries of timely and informative studies and articles on free-market health reform. It features research and writings by participants in the Health Policy Consensus Group, articles of interest from the health policy world, and announcements of coming events. Health Policy Matters is published by the Galen Institute, a not-for-profit public policy organization specializing in information and education on health policy. For more information about the newsletter and our organization, please visit our website at

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The views expressed in this newsletter are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Galen Institute or its directors.