Almost 10 years ago, town hall meetings were being held around the country to explain to the American people the intricate details of the government’s plan to re-engineer their health care system.
This fall, in meeting after meeting throughout the country, the conversation has shifted dramatically to discussions of free-market ideas to engage consumers in an energized, competitive medical marketplace.
What a difference a decade makes! The vision of the president clearly sets the tone for the policy debate throughout the country.
This year began with a speech by President Bush in Milwaukee outlining his patient- and physician-friendly health agenda.
It is ending with a series of “America Talks Health Care” forums organized by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and his policy team at HHS. The first was held Tuesday in Minneapolis with another scheduled next week in Florida.
Tuesday’s session in Minnesota focused on examples and innovative ideas for health care financing. Employers like Medtronic and insurers like UnitedHealth described new programs and tools to give employees more control, engaging them as partners rather than adversaries in making wise decisions about their utilization of health care.
The policy people at the forum – i.e., John Goodman of NCPA and yours truly – talked about the importance of new incentives targeted to individuals, especially refundable tax credits.
Kallijah Paraska with the health insurance brokerage firm Acordia in Washington State said that Medical Savings Accounts are hot sellers, are especially appealing to lower-income uninsured, and are chosen by the healthy as well as those with chronic conditions.
While there always are a few naysayers who say people just aren’t smart or able enough to make their own health care decisions, the evidence is compelling that people can and want to be engaged and that the marketplace is providing new tools to empower them to do so.
From Minneapolis, I headed back to Washington briefly before traveling to Portland, Maine, on Wednesday morning (in yet another ice storm).
Betsy Chapman and Ron Trowbridge at the Maine Public Policy Institute organized a forum headlined by Brian Lee Crowley, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in Nova Scotia. He described, as only a Canadian can, the failed promises of a single-payer system.
Then Bob Moffit of Heritage and I explained the real promises of moving to a free-market, consumer-driven system. (I might sound like a broken record to you, but these ideas are new to most of our audiences.)
Next, I want to reinforce a point that Neil Trautwein of the National Association of Manufacturers made in his newsletter earlier this week about Sunday’s Washington Post article on Medicare and prescription drugs: The White House hasn’t budged from its July 2001 principles, and no final decisions have been made about next year’s Medicare or prescription drug proposals.
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