SPN Hosts Health Care Reform Summit

Published December 1, 2002

Nearly 50 representatives of public policy think tanks from across the country converged on Indianapolis, Indiana on October 17-19 for the tenth annual meeting of State Policy Network. Attendees were welcomed to the event by SPN President Tracie Sharp.

State Policy Network is the national trade association for state-based free-market public policy research organizations. The group’s annual meeting offers networking opportunities, issue updates, and “how to” training for member groups’ top executives. The Indianapolis event, under the direction of SPN Chairman Carl Helstrom, mixed leadership development with policy mobilization workshops featuring nationally known keynote speakers.

No Ordinary Day

The meeting opened on October 17 with a summit focused on health care issues. Attendees were shuttled from The Omni Hotel to the Eli Lilly Corporate Center for a day of information-sharing that included a tour of the Lilly facilities.

“We are here to learn and to share with each other what we know about market-driven health care,” explained Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute. “We are here,” she said, “to exchange information on what is working and what is not working at the state level.”

Turner introduced Dr. Martin Hynes, head of pharmaceutical product development at Lilly. Hynes addressed the product development cycle and timeframe, the costs involved in research and development, and the low probability of success in developing a drug that actually makes it to a consumer’s medicine cabinet.

Hynes addressed the widely held myth that the federal government, rather than private-sector drug manufacturers, fund the bulk of pharmaceutical development. “This misunderstanding,” said Hynes, “incorrectly leads the consumer to think prescription drugs should cost less.”

Economic Dynamic

The Hynes presentation was followed by an interactive panel discussion on “The Economic Value of Innovation.” Panelists included Wade A. Lange, president and CEO of Indiana’s Health Care Industry; Dr. Gail H. Cassell, vice president of scientific affairs for Lilly; Nina Owcharenko, health policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation; and Merrill Matthews PhD, director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) and senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Panelists discussed how market forces work to the advantage of companies and their communities and, conversely, how price controls and other anti-market interventions undermine value and threaten future investments directed at innovations in pharmacology. Cassell reminded the audience, “Progress can happen only with the cooperation of the private sector, academia, and the government.”

Panel members also examined how reduced profits result in economic loss to the community and change the dynamics of corporate decisions on future research and development.

A second panel asked, “Are States Rationing Innovation?” Linda Gorman, senior fellow at the Independence Institute; Dr. Robert Browne, a medical advisor at Lilly; Steve McCaffery, president and CEO of the Indiana Mental Health Association; and James Frogue, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s health and human services task force, led a discussion that included substantial give-and-take with the audience.

Gorman passed along a true story about a state health care official in Oregon, who told a consumer of the state-run Medicaid health care plan, “Just because you are covered by the Oregon health care plan does not mean you have a right to health care.”

Communicating Health Care Reform

Two roundtable discussions in the afternoon addressed the nuts-and-bolts of communicating reform ideas. The “Policy Successes and Failures” session was handled by Paul Guppy of the Washington Policy Center; Kurt Weber, Cascade Policy Institute; Dr. David MacDonald, American Association of Patients and Providers and co-founder of SimpleCare; John McClaughry, president of the Ethan Allen Institute; and Harry Messenheimer, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.

The “Marketing and Media Strategies” session presented opportunities to learn how to better communicate and implement new ideas in an emotional and complicated policy arena.

A lively discussion of how to battle single-payer health care proposals raised questions about labeling. Some in the audience considered it “too dramatic” to label single-payer proposals “socialized medicine,” saying the phrase “turns people off.”

Others recommended “it’s time to play the same game as our liberal activist opponents play,” calling “a spade a spade” and never forgetting that the proponents of single-payer don’t hesitate to “call us rats and roaches living off the free-market.”

When given the opportunity to share Heartland’s perspective on what makes for successful communication, I held up a copy of Health Care News and spoke about the value of this one-of-kind hard-copy newspaper and Internet publication.

Health Care News reaches 8,000 elected officials, around 500 media types, has a growing circulation pushing 30,000 copies, and fills the information gap with health care news mostly ignored by the mainstream media,” I said in one long breathless statement. “If,” I followed up before sitting down, “you want your messages, your ideas communicated and implemented, support Health Care News and send me your written material.”

Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

The health summit concluded with a dinner hosted by Lee Tooman, vice president of government relations for Golden Rule Insurance Company. The event’s closing speaker, introduced by Tooman, was John Hartnedy, director of the Arkansas Department of Insurance, who offered a unique perspective on Medical Savings Accounts and their potential for revolutionizing the insurance industry.

Conrad F. Meier is managing editor of Health Care News.

For more information …

Audiotapes and Power Point slide presentations from the SPN’s Health Care Reform Summit are available from SPN President Tracie Sharp. Contact her at [email protected] … and tell her you saw it in Health Care News!