A Time to Do and a Time to Be Done

Published October 1, 2004

It has been almost four years since I accepted the challenge of editing a fledgling newspaper dedicated to the principles of free markets and consumer choice in health care financing and the delivery of medical services.

In the March 2001 inaugural issue of Health Care News, I set a standard for the newspaper and myself by writing, “Health Care News will report the latest news about health care reform, paying special attention to reforms that empower patients and their doctors by reducing the regulations and bureaucracy that distort incentives, increase prices, and violate privacy.”

I further promised, “We will keep pace with emerging trends and explore new ways to improve private-sector health care financing and restore a citizen’s right and ability to make sensible choices in a consumer-friendly market.”

If the current rapid growth of consumer-driven health care is any indication of fulfilling a pledge, the promise made was a promise kept.

Time for New Blood

As the saying goes, there is a time for everything in life, and my time has come to step down as managing editor of Health Care News and allow for a transfusion of new energy and new dedication. As I approach 70–as in years, not miles per hour–I realize there are equally important things I have left to do, and less time to do them in.

I will hold my position as senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute, submit timely news articles, offer up My Turn on a regular basis, and take on special projects on the emerging health care issues that lie ahead but are not yet clearly defined.

Such issues include, to name just a few, the direction of stem cell research; expansion of health savings account participation to the Medicare and Medicaid populations; transformation of a paper-driven health care system to one that maximizes use of information technology; increasing health care literacy; as-yet-unexplored free-market approaches to expanding health insurance access to the uninsured; solutions to malpractice litigation problems; and expansion of medical care to underserved ethnic populations.

Lessons Learned

Over my four years as managing editor of Health Care News, I have learned we must exercise eternal vigilance lest the agenda of the political left, as well as the political right, succeed in enslaving all of us in a socialized health care system.

I have also learned that today’s industrialized nations with government-run health care systems are introducing more and more private-sector health care options, having become aware that government is not the solution. Ironic, isn’t it? As other nations back away from a statist approach to medical care, a loud and politically active minority in the United States seeks to limit our freedom of choice, using Orwellian newspeak slogans such as “Health Care for All” and “Everyone In, No One Out.”

I have also come to understand how bureaucrats have legislated this country’s free-market health care system almost to extinction … and then used the very problems they created as a justification for government-run health care.

It has not been lost on me that we cannot expect to repeal, at least not anytime soon, years of ineffective social policy and layers upon layers of mandates and regulations that confound not only us, but even those who wrote the laws in the first place.

So instead of reform, we must seek to transform our system into one that reacts to consumer demand instead of regulatory demand–a system of health care financing and medical care delivery truly dedicated to consumers, not political expediency.

Full Disclosure

Many people played a major role in making Health Care News a success under my tenure. First and foremost, I must thank my wife, Professor C. Zoe Smith, for sustaining me during four years of deadlines, frustrations, rewrites, late nights, and more rewrites. While she often felt like she was in the orchestra’s third violin section, she still made beautiful music for me.

To art director Kevin Fitzgerald, graphic designer Ross Van Overberghe, and home office administrative staff at Heartland, present and past, I thank you for taking every request I made of you with a “can do” spirit. In all my years I have never been associated with a better team. All of you deserve an Olympic gold medal for getting Health Care News across the finish line ahead of the pack.

Thanks to editor Diane Bast, vice president-internal affairs, for her steady hand on some rocky roads. Her dedication to being clear, concise, and correct has made Health Care News a reliable read.

And to the president of The Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, my thanks for giving me a voice on this important social issue. I am certain Joe will continue to provide trustworthy leadership and future vision for Health Care News.

Conrad F. Meier ([email protected]) is senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute.