Thanks to everyone who traveled to Washington last week to attend the very successful first annual Consumer Choice Community conference.
We had a wonderful in-gathering supper on Thursday night where members enjoyed food from pasta and carving stations while networking with friends and meeting new CCC members. John Desser of Jefferson Government Relations, who follows HSAs and CDHC issues very closely, gave us a round-up of the legislative outlook, which he believes is likely to include expanding tax deductibility for HSA-qualifying insurance and possibly opening up insurance purchasing opportunities across state lines.
On Friday morning, we met at a new conference center overlooking the U.S. Capitol as about 40 participants slogged through the driving rain for our day-long conference.
? Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke first, announcing that he had met with Speaker Hastert the evening before to encourage him to bring health policy legislation to the House floor this summer. The speaker responded favorably. That is good news for several issues that have the greatest likelihood of passage: tax deductibility of HSA insurance, cross-state purchasing of health insurance, and rebates for small businesses that set up HSA accounts for their employees. (Passage in the Senate will be a bigger battle, of course.)
Rep. Ryan stirred up the group when he emphasized the importance of getting ?price and quality data out to the public.? The physicians in the group were most vocal in saying that there is no way that government can balance the art and science of medicine in devising cost and quality rules because there is too much subjectivity and individuality in treating patients. Ryan advised the group to create its own standards — certainly his preference — lest government do it for them “because this train is leaving the station.”
? Ron Peele, a senior executive of Steve Case’s new Revolution Health company, gave the group a preview of this new company that plans to be a big player in the cost and quality space. One of the company?s goals is to create consumer-friendly, decision-support tools to help them make informed decisions. This likely will involve on-line support portals for payment and coverage, diagnostics, wellness and disease management, and telemedicine for home health care support.
? William Short of UMB Bank from Kansas City described in detail how the interests of financial institutions and physicians can converge: “We don’t get paid until the claim is paid,” he said, “so we are trying hard to accelerate payments.” UMB is a leader in consumer directed health care services and supports HSAs, HRAs, and FSAs.
? Scott Spiker, CEO of Destiny Health, offered insights on his company’s lessons in providing health account-based products for nearly 15 years in South Africa and some of the challenges in making CDHC work in the United States. He said that one of the key goals should be supporting employers to engage and educate their employees, not only about new health insurance options but also about the importance of changing their own health habits.
? Joel White of the House Ways and Means Committee was our wrap-up speaker. Joel literally wrote the HSA provisions in the 2003 legislation, and congratulated the group for all they have done and are doing to make HSAs work in the marketplace.
He also heard ideas from the group about HSA fixes that are needed. Greg Westcott of Grandville, MI, pointed out, for example, that people must wait until the month after they get their high deductible plan to make the first deposit into their HSA. Clearly that wasn’t the intent of Congress. Joel seemed eager to hear about these and other repairs that are needed, while being careful not to call his hand about when action might be taken.
While there were a number of speakers, there was a lively and sometimes heated discussion throughout the day among the members of the CCC, challenging the speakers, offering their own ideas and opinions, and challenging all of us to think outside the box.
Thanks to everyone for making the CCC conference such a big success!