Lance Armstrong for health czar

When the President failed to get Tom Daschle named his "health care czar," he deliberately kept that title away from new HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. The idea behind the "czar" position was to sell this new concept of healthcare, not just to Congress, but to everyone. I can't think of a better salesman for that than Lance Armstrong. Can you?

Washington's health care debate has been turned upside down.

The argument today is all over who pays. The universal answer -- not me.

The President is even taking to calling his plan "health insurance reform," because insurance is what we are supposedly buying and who pays what is the key question reporters and lobbyists ask.

It's the wrong question.

As Intel CEO Paul Otellini wrote in Politico this weekend, "Personal health is about shifting the focus from institution to individual and hospital to home."

It's not about who pays, it's about what we're buying.

Which leads directly to the proposal in the headline. The concept of Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation is wellness, not illness. What he has built is a wellness site, just like Dr. Weil, or Healthline, or RevolutionHealth.

Each of these sites, and hundreds like them, has its own niche, its own target markets, its own business markets. It's an incredibly competitive market, a fast-growing one.

It's also the secret weapon for bending the cost curve.

If you take care of yourself, if you have constant feedback, if you're part of an active community, if your health data becomes your ally in self-care, you're going to be healthier. And you'll pay less than someone who does not do these things.

Then if, through no fault of your own, disease finds you, there are other sites, like Diabetic Connect, to which you can turn for information and support.

This concept is not news. Feedback and monitoring are as old as Alcoholics Anonymous.

What Armstrong has done with his disease, discovered a few months after I watch him fall out of contention during the 1996 Olympics road race, is one of the great legends of our time. He beat cancer, pain, competition, and he built something important in the process.

How important? Armstrong's director of research and policy, Adam Clark, is on the committee advising Dr. David Blumenthal on health IT. Last week Clark was named to the certification workgroup at the center of the debate.

What Lance Armstrong has done is put himself at the center of solving the health care crisis. After finishing third in this year's Tour, against men half-a-generation younger, perhaps he's up for a new challenge. Maybe it's time for him to try a new race, a harder one.

When the President failed to get Tom Daschle named his "health care czar," he deliberately kept that title away from new HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. The idea behind the "czar" position was to sell this new concept of healthcare, not just to Congress, but to everyone.

I can't think of a better salesman for that than Lance Armstrong. Can you?

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