In the second of his 2-part series on SAS’ recent Health and Life Sciences Executive Conference, Barry Gay discusses the keynote delivered by Philip Johnston. Johnston’s perspective as a leader in the Massachusetts health insurance industry provided a stark contrast to Mike Huckabee’s view of the current health reform efforts.
If history looks kindly on the health-care reform bill signed into law a few weeks ago after nearly a century of on-again, off-again debate, posterity will surely mark it as a defining achievement for President Obama.
After all it was President Obama who had – to borrow a word he popularized during his warp-speed political ascent – the “audacity” to resurrect a fight that many presumed dead after it went down in flames in the early Clinton years.
Not even the mighty – nor the mighty persuasive – FDR could win that battle. He could save the world from the vilest personification of evil. But he dared not risk losing support for what became the Social Security Act of 1935 by including a health-insurance provision.
No matter what the “Monday-morning” historians of tomorrow will say about today’s venture into federal control of health insurance, Obama will get all the credit – be it good or bad. Still, as the president basks in the afterglow of his biggest achievement so far in his brief tenure, he has Philip W. Johnston to thank.
Johnston, a leader among giants in the Massachusetts’ Democratic Party and chairman of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, was a chief crusader and architect of the commonwealth’s own health-care reform plan, which served as a model for the new national plan.
He spoke at the recent SAS Health and Life Sciences Executive Conference. His remarks in favor of the new legislation followed those from former GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabeee, who opposed the reform package.
Despite their differences, they both advocate a system that rewards quality outcomes through doctor-patient relationships focused on prevention through intervention and individual responsibility. With analytics, insurers and doctors can easily predict patient outcomes based on behaviors, demographics, circumstances, you name it. They can see how two seemingly unrelated events in a patient’s medical file are harbingers of morbidity.
Shifting the medical community from assembly-line care to preventive care will save untold billions of dollars in insurance payouts and hospital losses while helping patients maintain a decent quality of life. Loss of health equals loss of income. In the broader equation, loss of health equals loss of productivity; and loss of income equals loss of spending power.
To Johnston, the warning signs are in place: US childhood-obesity rates are fueling an epidemic of adult-onset diabetes among juveniles. To prevent further declines in the nation’s physical and financial health, government has a moral obligation to play doctor.
To that end, Johnston summoned the words of FDR himself, spoken in Boston in 1936 as both his political detractors and the Supreme Court picked apart his New Deal idealism: “Better the occasional errors of a caring government than the intentional omission of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”