President’s Health Campaign; FSA Rollover; Anti-Fair Share HC; Electric Epiphany; Health IT

By February 16, 2006Health Care

1. HSA Advocate in Chief – President Bush is out on the road in strong support of his health care agenda. Here are links to the President’s remarks at the headquarters for Wendy’s International in Dublin, Ohio and a very impressive report from the President’s National Economic Council on his new health care initiatives. We now know where else Roy, Keith and many others have been recently….

2. Reforming Health Care for the 21st Century – the President’s enthusiasm for enlisting smart shopping in health care is contagious. As he points out, why worry what something costs – my copay is only $15. Insurance will pay it. Who’s the best at it? Well, I like my doc and think she stays up on the literature, but is she really the best? How would I know?

I loved the President’s analogy of consumer choice at Wendy’s between the triple monster burger and the salad. How do you get people to pick the salad unless they have both financial skin and blood (accountability based on progress in testing) in the game? I’ll roll up my sleeve if you’ll show me yours….

3. Reshaping Healthcare – The President’s health care agenda is much bigger and broader than HSAs. He – like us at the NAM – is seeking to reshape the incentives in health care to generate higher quality at lower costs. And lest anyone grind their teeth (or wail) over how it can’t be done, we manufacturers do this each and every day at every level of the supply chain. It’s long past time that we introduce continuous quality improvement to health care….

4. Who is the Revolutionary Now? In that respect, the President’s health care proposals are more revolutionary than those pushed by the Clintons’ Health Security Act. After all, the Clinton proposal would have reshaped the payment and purchasing mechanisms and imposed global price controls (global budgeting) on the market (including the infamous jail time for physicians who billed privately). But, under the hood, it still was the same old, dysfunctional get-sick-and-wait-your-turn-kind-of-system…an uglier shade of the status quo. That’s not President 43’s vision, no matter how many nice things President 41 says about President 42….

President Bush advocates informed choice by engaged consumers and greater transparency in health care. By peeling back the layers of secrecy on price and quality and enabling businesses and individuals to make better decisions in health care, we can encourage better care and lower costs … just as we do on the supply chain. We can do this … and we must!

5. Encourage FSA Rollover – No matter how much the economists dream and salivate over the orderly marketplace transition, the move to more consumer-oriented plans won’t happen overnight. For a lot of companies and workers, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are a good introduction to consumerism … kind of the 101 introductory course. There is that nagging use-or-lose provision that keeps workers from electing FSAs where available.

We have long supported the President, Senator DeMint (R-SC) and many others in the call for a $500 rollover at years end. This will encourage workers to budget for out-of-pocket expenditures on a pre-tax basis without the fear that unspent money will spiral down the drain (it actually reverts back to the employer; we really don’t want it) at years’ end. I foolishly avoided FSAs for years on that basis.

We strongly support the FSA rollover provision in the currently pending pension bill, soon to be conferenced. I have included a link to our coalition letter on FSA rollover; similar letters went to other likely conferees. We and our coalition allies will be supporting Senator DeMint and others to ensure that the $500 rollover stays in the pension bill. If a conferee is concerned about the rising cost of health care, then he should support FSA rollover for pocketbook needs. If a conferee supports HSAs (Health Savings Accounts), then she should support FSA rollover because it will ease the consumer and employer transition to HSAs. This should be a bipartisan no-brainer….

6. “Anti-Fair Share Health Care Workgroup” – Our next phone call meeting in the anti-Fair Share Health Care Workgroup (didn’t want to confuse our “friends” in organized labor, etc.) will be held on February 24th at 10:00. Please let me know if you would like to join our efforts to shore up the ERISA bulwark and assist our friends and allies (e.g. NRF’s Tax on Jobs Coalition) fighting these battles at the state level.

I’ve talked to a number of our state association members recently and know that there is a lot of good coordination and shared effort at the state level. This is very important as the bad guys know how to work the phone banks and organize at the more reachable state level. It’s going to take a coalition army to beat back the labor hordes on this back-door approach to national healthcare.

7. Electric Epiphany – Like many in Washington and up the East Coast, I lost power as a result of the big Nor’easter storm Saturday and Sunday night. We suffered through a couple of cold nights (is wood smoke a carcinogen?) and even discovered how much snow one has to melt to generate water: way too much. If it’s all the same, I’ll keep the juice and technology and leave the “Jeremiah Johnson” role behind.

I did think (between stoking fires and shivers) how thin the veneer is that keeps our health care system afloat. The miracles of modern medicine uniformly need energy to produce or operate. And guess whose prices are even higher than health care? As if we needed another cost-driver….

8. Another Argument for Health IT – I’ve written before about how the Veterans Administrations e-records outperformed the soggy debris of most doctor offices on the Gulf Coast post-Katrina. Shouldn’t we hurry to digitize and interconnect records through Health IT before the next wave or other disaster hits? I assume we’ll also invest in battery-backup, but this is another lesson from Katrina that we had best heed and another excellent argument for Health IT.

9. Output – I haven’t resorted to midnight blogging yet, but you might well be able to detect the hand tremors from my pent-up blogging (I mean output) in recent weeks. Thank you for your encouragement – gentle or otherwise – in encouraging me to work to bring my output back up to historic norms. I’m not sure I fully trust my self-control blogging away at the midnight hour anyway….