First Coast Panelists Say Health Care Reform Will Pass; but There Is Concern the Private Insurance Industry Will Be at Risk

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY COX

Congress will pass a health care reform bill by the end of the year, a group of health care leaders and analysts predicted Tuesday in Jacksonville, echoing the sentiments of some key Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

But unlike those lawmakers, the experts at a forum sponsored by the Economic Roundtable of Jacksonville were less than thrilled about that possibility.

"I do believe a bill will be passed," said Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health, which operates five hospitals across Northeast Florida. "I think those who believe otherwise don't understand how important it is to the president."

Carl Patten, a public policy consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, said, "It would be almost perceived as incompetent if nothing happened."

Greene and Patten, along with two leading physicians, sounded a note of alarm about the main overhaul bills being considered in Congress. A wrong move and Congress could cause the private insurance industry to collapse, Patten said, and a bill that doesn't address medical malpractice reform will leave many problems in place, Greene argued.

At stake is no less than one-sixth of the U.S. economy. At least one committee in both the House and Senate has passed reform bills, almost entirely along party lines. …