Former HHS Secretaries Discuss Health Policy
Former HHS Secretaries Donna Shalala and Tommy Thompson on Monday discussed the future of U.S. health care at a conference sponsored by American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Shalala, HHS secretary for eight years under President Bill Clinton, said she favors an expansion of health insurance for all workers through a model similar to that recently adopted in Massachusetts. She said that there are a number of ways to increase coverage, including the use of employer or individual mandates or state-run insurance pools.
Shalala added that such expansions should occur only if government resources for health coverage are not taken from programs for low-income and disabled residents. Shalala also expressed concern about the Medicare prescription drug benefit, saying the enrollment process is too complicated, costs could increase and insurers could drop drugs from their formularies (Skiba, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/17).
Meanwhile, Thompson, HHS secretary under President Bush until 2005, praised the Medicare drug benefit and said he expects more individuals to enroll before the May 15 deadline. Thompson also said he supports the Massachusetts law and predicted that other states will enact similar laws as a way of addressing the large number of uninsured U.S. residents (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 4/17).
In addition, Thompson called for the implementation of electronic health records and e-prescribing systems and said the U.S. health system should begin focusing more on preventive care instead of treatment of illnesses (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/17). Thompson also said he is "absolutely" considering a run for president in 2008, noting that health care will be the leading issue in the election.
Shalala expressed skepticism that health care would play a major role in the next presidential election (CQ HealthBeat, 4/17).