“It’s Not Etched in Stone”

ron-williamsOne of the great privileges I’ve had at the Healthcare Leadership Council has been the opportunity to work with Ron Williams, a member of HLC’s executive committee and chief executive of Aetna until he retired from that position last month.  Throughout the debate over health reform, Ron’s voice has been one of the most insightful on the issue, in terms of both the need for reform as well as the shortcomings in the new law.  His views were in the spotlight in the New York Times this week.  The article that emerged from his interview with Reed Abelson is certainly worth reading.

One of the most important points Ron makes is that it’s still essential to improve the health reform law, even as it’s in the process of being implemented.  As he said, “There are many opportunities to change the law.  It’s not etched in stone.”  Even some of the law’s most fervent advocates would acknowledge that it doesn’t do enough to address the issue of cost.  We also need to look at ways to accelerate necessary delivery reforms and strengthen medical innovation.

On the topic of affordability, Ron cites the law’s new taxes on health insurers, but he could have just as easily been talking about the legislation’s taxes on medical devices as well, when he said, “You can’t make the product more affordable by putting taxes on it.”

The article also contains Ron’s thoughts on the individual mandate, the healthcare system’s workforce needs and the imperative upon policymakers to be prudent and practical in implementing such significant change.