Jeb Bush touched on a range of issues in health care and politics and shared a few personal anecdotes about his famous family with LUGPA members at the association’s annual meeting in Chicago.
Bush, the 66-year-old former governor of Florida, said the agency that runs the Medicare program is doing good work under “clouds of chaos,” agreed with site-neutral payments for hospital systems and independent practices, strongly disagreed with Medicare for All, and admitted disappointment over the Republican’s party’s “paralysis” on health care policy. Throughout his speech and a question-and-answer session that followed, he decried the lack of civility in modern politics.
He was warmly received by LUGPA urologists and practice administrators, who along with the association’s Health Policy and Political Affairs Team, were provided an opportunity to pose questions. Select questions and responses follow.
Hospital systems have amazing political clout that enables them to drive policy that creates inefficiencies. How do we impress upon the politicians that are going to be inundated with really deep pockets and have influence on their voters to do the right thing when it comes to the health care playing field?
"I totally get it," Bush said, citing his own state as an example of rapid consolidation of health care systems. "The subject of focusing on the sole practitioner or the small businessperson at the expense of these monopolistic kinds of structures should have bipartisan support. It's hard to make an argument if you have 80% of the commercial insurance market as a hospital, that you have to go to them at a higher price. That's not a liberal idea or a conservative idea, that's just a bad idea."
What can be done so that politicians are emboldened to do the right thing, as opposed to fostering tribalism?
"Part of it is you can make structural changes, campaign finance reform, redistricting. If the Democrats have a blue wave election in 2020, they'll draw the maps in the states in 2022. They're going to look dramatically different," Bush said.
The other part, Bush said, is for politicians from both parties to interact with each another.
"Reconnecting on a human level would be helpful. This is not a problem in Tallahassee. It's not a problem in New York or in most other places. Politics is rough and tumble, and the legislative process has got a lot of dynamics to it that create a lot of tension and anger and emotion. But people respect each other because they're with them all the time."
Michael Bloomberg is mulling another run for president. Does he have a chance of uniting people?
Bush referred to Bloomberg as "an extraordinary man."
"He is no nonsense. He doesn't suffer fools. He's pretty self-assured, incredibly successful, very generous, very practical," Bush said.
Regarding Bloomberg's viability as a presidential candidate, however, Bush said, "He's an incredible guy, but I just don't think competency and being a successful billionaire is necessarily a winning strategy in a hyper-partisan Democratic primary. It may have some appeal.”
“The strange thing is that if it's a Warren-Trump race, there's a massive group in the middle that's yearning for something that's a little more stable. I think there are people who yearn for stability and civility, and that yearning may trump their own ideological views; they'd be willing to give up some of their positions on things to just get back to normalcy where things can get done."
You said that if John McCain had voted for the Republican health care reform measure, it really wouldn't have accomplished very much. Who on the Republican side represents the thought leaders for an alternative to Medicare for All and substantive health care policy making?
"To be honest with you, I don't know. I'm sure there are people," Bush said. "Generally Republicans... don't want to keep going back to the same thing that they failed to do. So they're letting it lie.
"The people that seem to be most anxious to reform are the people inside of HHS. I've been really impressed with Seema Verma," he said, referring to the current CMS administrator. "She's a real deal."
Bush said much of health policy belongs in the hands of the states, not the federal government.
"Now pharma drug pricing wouldn't necessarily be one of those because that's a federal responsibility. But if you want a flourishing policy area, trust states to be able to do a better job than Washington."
In conservative Florida, Bush said, the legislature passed a bill to allow for reimportation of drugs from Canada. "I think there could be support allowing Medicare to be able to negotiate directly for their for their drugs. Even if it's a pilot to test it, think you're going to find there would be significantly lower drug prices," he said. "What you don't want to do is the Stalin approach, which means there will be no more new drugs. That's the last thing we need to do."