America’s CEOs set priorities for Obama Administration

This past Monday and Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal convened an extraordinary conference of about 100 CEOs to develop and recommend issue priorities for the new Administration. (See the participant list here.)

This meeting brought together the nation’s industry power players. Several Senators and Congressional representatives participated, as well as Rahm Emanuel, the President-elect’s new Chief of Staff, and others who advise Mr. Obama.

Based on their business’ core focus, the attendees were assigned into four major areas: 1) Finance and the US Economy, 2) Energy and the Environment, 3) American and the Global Economy, and 4) Health Care.

Then in the General Session that followed, the focus groups’ recommendations were incorporated into a final list and reranked by all the participants. Here’s the graph showing the relative ranking of all issues.

Predictably, economic issues ranked highest. Fiscal stimulation was the CEO Council’s top priority, but the nation’s economic vision and tax policy came in 3rd and 5th, respectively.

Perhaps most surprising — and this has caused a lot of buzz — was that an educated workforce came in second. This is clearly something that the nation’s CEOs are worried about.

The health care group – co-chaired by Angela Braly of Wellpoint Inc., Dr. Denis Cortese of the Mayo Clinic, Jeffrey Kindler from Pfizer Inc., and Dr. Daniel Vasella from Novartis AG – identified Obesity as the nation’s top health priority. Dr. Vasella said that that two-thirds of Americans older than 20 are obese, “and their children are becoming obese now.”

The health care group’s second priority was Tort Reform. Third was Defining and Measuring Value. Fourth was Payment Reform that would move toward paying-for-value. Fifth was Building the Health Care Workforce, with an emphasis on primary care, nursing and other allied health professionals.Picture_2
In the General Session’s aggregation and re-ranking of priorities, Defining Value and Payment Reform was the highest ranking health care priority, coming in 7th among all 18 priorities listed. Tort Reform was second, at 10th, and Obesity was 3rd, tied at 12th with Universal Health Care Coverage and Electric Cars. Interestingly, the Health Care Focus Group had not identified Universal Health Coverage as a priority, but the General Session participants added it. Building a Health Care Workforce was the 5th health care priority in the General Session, coming in 17th.

This was a hugely important event for national priority setting. Rarely do the CEOs of the nation’s largest companies — America’s most influential group through both their business practices and their Congressional and legislative lobbying — come together and develop consensus on the solutions that would make America stronger. By placing their imprimatur on this list of 18 issues, they have provided much needed leadership on the national priorities agenda.

Even so, we should not necessarily take their recommendations as the last or only word on issues for the country. By definition, business leaders have a business, not a social, perspective and, like the rest of us, they may see the world through a prism of self-interest.

But there are times when the special and the common interests converge. Many of the issues identified in this session can be characterized as meeting that criterion. I hope the Administration pays attention, distinguishes what’s best for us all, and acts to bring real solutions to fruition.

Equally important, the chances for real change would be significantly greater now if the CEO Council’s participants followed-through by collaborating on an action-oriented effort, strengthening it by opening participation to all business and like-minded groups. Now that they have seized precious high ground, they should optimize the opportunity though activities that can lead to results.

And kudos to the Wall Street Journal for sponsoring this forum.

11 replies »

  1. I have to agree completely with this statement of Brian’s. I work with the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center; Dr. Cortese was very pleased to co-chair the discussion about health care priorities.

  2. Yes. Fat people and lawyers are easy to pick on, distracting from the ball of barbed wire that is our healthcare “system.” It’s much easier to argue about how to pay for a broken vase then it is to make one.

  3. 7 Women out of 100? The first thing we need to reform is who speaks on behalf of us.

  4. I am glad to see CEOs convening to discuss these important issues that affect us all. I am surprised to see Universal Health Care ranking so low. I would think that would be a top priority and all other elements would follow naturally.

  5. First obesity then tort reform, Seriously? And Universal health care wasn’t even on the list among the healthcare group.
    Notice that the number 1 and number 2 priorities refer to factors outside the healthcare system. In other words, they are giving the most blame to outside forces for high costs rather than looking at themselves and how care is paid for and delivered.
    If the goal was to (further) undermine their own credibility, mission accomplished.

  6. Yesterday’s WSJ editorial spells out Obama’s HC plan and its likely consequences:
    Braly et. al. should be worried about the future of private sector HC rather than tort reform and other minuatiae. If I were running Wellpoint or United (or any of the Blues), I would look to the Kaiser model. The reason is that those who control actual HC infrastructure will have the leverage to fend off total government control. If, as in the case of Wellpoint and the other private payers, you’re just some faceless entity in an office somewhere, you’re toast, history.
    However, if you employ thousands of doctors, nurses and other personnel, and if you own many hospitals and clinics, you’ve got a constituent army of employees, patients, local government officials, etc, prepared to wage war on your behalf. Boots are the ground beats eyes in the sky any day.

  7. “But there are times when the special and the common interests converge. Many of the issues identified in this session can be characterized as meeting that criterion.”
    I have to agree completely with this statement of Brian’s. I work with the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center; Dr. Cortese was very pleased to co-chair the discussion about health care priorities.
    Finding common ground is indeed critical for change; and realizing that compromise is needed in order to make change happen.
    For the past two years, the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center has gathered more than 2,000 stakeholders including patients and patient advocates, providers, insurers, large and small employers, representatives from government, and researchers to gain consensus on what health care reform should be. Four priorities: coordination of care, payment reform, creating value and insurance for all, are cornerstones of reform that participants from all sectors agreed upon.
    Sessions that bring together many different perspectives are critical in moving the conversation, and the reform, forward. One of the things I’ve witnessed at these sessions is that, in reality, we have many common goals — the ideas about how to get there differ, but the goals are the same.
    If you would like to learn more about the process and the recommendations related to the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center, please see information at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthpolicycenter.

  8. The Forum was a great idea, but I hate to see healthcare listed fourth. As a professional in Dade and Broward counties in south florida group healthcare, I see people having to dig into their annuities, just to pay the rising costs of healthcare insurance.
    Jean Drogus

  9. I think the main priority list shows that CEOs still think in a quarter by quarter mindset. Isn’t that what got us here?
    Universal Health Insurance – 5.1
    Decarbonize Power Sector – 4.7
    Energy Efficiency – 4.7
    Build Healthcare Workforce – 4.4