Staying close to the Governator's tent

John Taylor: July 11, 20070 Comments

It was just another normal zig-zag day for a man described by Capitol Weekly as "one of the most influential players" in health care policy.

Duane Dauner flew by charter from Sacramento to Fresno on July 9 and, four hours later, ducked into the same plane for hospital meetings in Half Moon Bay.  The president and CEO of the California Hospital Association came to Fresno to discuss the hope and chaos of the health biz for future episodes of "MedWatch," the weekly, 30-minute TV show produced by Community Medical Centers and aired at 6:30 p.m Sundays on KSEE 24.

From airport, to TV studios, to lunch and a quick tour of the Community Regional Medical Center, a drive-by eyeballing of Clovis Community Medical Center and goodbye -- I was guide and chauffeur -- all talk (except for a stray word about business-related golf) was about health reform, money issues, quality, transparency, who is getting along with whom.

What two messages might a layman take away from Dauner, who recently traveled to Canada with Gov. Schwarzenegger and who can get calls through to biggies who don't answer anybody's calls?

  • Now is the time for health care reform. Something significant will happen in California in the coming months in terms of expanding insurance coverage, but don't expect anything substantial to occur in DC before the 2008 elections.

  • It's time to emphasize -- through incentives rather than punishment - the value of illness prevention and wellness education. The way things are now, if you drink yourself purple, gobble your way to obesity and think sun block is for sissies, you don't pay for the consequences of your bad choices -- everybody else does. That's part of the reason EDs are jammed and hospital beds are in short supply.

Dauner takes health seriously -- not much of a cheesecake eater -- and works at Energizer Bunny level.  I can't imagine him sitting inside the infamous tent in Sacramento when Schwarzenegger fires up his Daniel Marshall cigars and holds political court.  But, after decades in the biz, he gets more than a drift of what's going on.