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Bill Frist and Tom Daschel Say 'It's All Going To Be Okay'

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By Steve Moran

I hope I have not too injudiciously put words in the mouths of these two esteemed former Senate Majority Leaders . . .  

Once in awhile something really cool happens by accident. Here is the story.

When I go to conferences I am almost always late and not very proud of that fact. But I get into conversations during breaks and realize the next session or the next thing has started. Once in awhile though, it turns out to be an amazing thing.

After lunch at NIC where Ken Segarmick, the CCO of Brandywine Senior Living, moderated a discussion with former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, both of whom were Senate Majority Leaders. The conversation was all about what will happen with the affordable care act, specifically and more broadly about what will happen with health care policy in this country.

It was a fascinating conversation and I wished for more . . . and got my wish.

Are You Coming In?

I was meandering outside where the luncheon was held when Brian Jurutka, the president of NIC, asks me if I am coming in for the private event.

The private event sounded good, but I somehow missed getting my invitation. I responded, “Sure . . . but can I?”  

The answer was yes.

Bob Kramer did another hour with Frist and Daschle with an audience of about 25.

Crash and Burn or Something Else

There is a sense by most people in the healthcare industry that Trump Care will be a disaster, that it will replace something that is not working well but under which people are getting care and providers are getting paid. Here is what they had to say:

  • What we have today is a collage of subsystems that include both public and private entities.

  • We are currently spending more than $10,000 per person per year for healthcare. More than any other nation.

  • Everyone wants the same thing . . . affordable healthcare that is accessible.  

  • The ultimate question is this: What is our social contract with people of the United States? It is really a question whether or not medical care is a right. Further complicated by the question of what level of access and at what price?

  • It seems likely that we will end up with some sort of federal block grants to states which will allow/force states to take responsibility for cost and quality.  

  • The advantage of block grants is that they will provide the states more flexibility. This is seen as a mixed bag engendering fear that some states will cut quality and access to save money.

  • There is a big move toward consumer control and choice.  

  • We need more conversation.

They seemed overall optimistic that what will emerge from the swamp will be something that is better than what we have today.

The Unaddressed Elephants

I came away from the two sessions hopeful but feeling frustrated that two big elephants were left unaddressed:

  1. To fix the system we likely need to start with a clean sheet of paper and figure out how to get rid of the waste and allow individuals to take control of their own healthcare; not the government and not their employers. 

  2. There seems to be a belief that nothing can really done about the cost of healthcare, the drug companies being the prime example of a sector that is really doing financial damage to the people of The United States.

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