Medicare reform was the topic at the fourth annual conference of the Health Sector Assembly last week in Sundance, Utah. The conference brings health industry leaders with very disparate political and policy views to the table to try to break the log jam on tough health policy issues.
There was actually remarkable progress in which people who believe in a strong government role agreed with strong-free market advocates (including yours truly) that:
- Medicare is in serious trouble, and change is essential.
- Beneficiaries should have a choice of plans.
- Premium support should vary with income.
This is indeed progress! The completed report will be released in several weeks, and we will provide it to you.
Next year’s legislative agenda was the topic of a recent survey taken by Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the Health Insurance Association of America. He asked senior association officials and top lobbyists what they see as leading issues.
Adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare was seen as having the best chance of passage, with elimination of the marriage penalty second. Three-fourths see rising health care costs as an “important” concern for voters this November.
And after November of 2004 (yes, 2004), the executives believe that Democrats will continue to hold the Senate, and Republicans still will control both the House and the White House.
Fighting back. “You make products that help people feel better and live longer. You make more of these products than anyone else in the world. So why does the public think you’re a schmuck?” asked Detroit Free Press columnist Tom Walsh.
One pharmaceutical executive decided to respond, Walsh reports. David Canter, a senior VP of Pfizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, got “tired of having his industry slapped around by politicians, insurance companies, and consumer groups as the villain” and began airing drive-time radio ads.
The ads explain how much it costs to develop new drugs, how high the risk is, and that drug expenditures rise because people want more of the products, not because of exorbitant price increases.
Kudos for Canter’s courage in getting this message out.
And finally? We’ll be watching and awaiting election results with Oregon’s single-payer plan and also how candidates around the country fare in their positions on Medicare, the uninsured, and other health care issues. Look for our analysis next week.
Postscript: As I left the office last night for the 7:30 All Saints Day Vigil Mass at St. Mary’s Church (founded 1795), I walked through the most charming and historic part of Old Town Alexandria and found nearly all of the houses decorated with pumpkins and spider webs and candles. Owners were standing in the doorway awaiting the goblins holding baskets of candy. There were lots and lots of parents with very small costumed children. It felt so much like a neighborhood and most of all, it felt safe.
And then I learned at church that All Saints Day has been celebrated by the Catholic Church since the 4th century. And that it has been celebrated on November 1 since the 8th century when a special All Saints chapel was dedicated at St. Peter’s at the Vatican in Rome. Quite a tradition.
Happy All Saints Day to everyone.