I had the good fortune of attending the AdvaMed 2009 conference from October 12th to the 14th, and one of the plenary speakers happened to be Bill Clinton.  I was quite intrigued to hear him speak.  I know these former presidents usually command a pretty penny to hear them talk, but I was skeptical whether it would be worth it or not.

Anyhoo, the speech was pretty good with discussions around the healthcare (of course), the recession, education, and Africa.  There was definitely some political jabs being thrown (Clinton/Democrats good – Bush/Republicans bad), pushing forward his current work, as well as some interesting facts concerning healthcare spending compared with the rest of the world.  Overall a satisfactory speech–not earth moving.

It became much more interesting when it was opened up for questions.  Edwards LifeScience CEO Michael Mussallem (also the current AdvaMed Chairman), asked some tough questions about the health care bill and how it would affect the medical technology industry.  There is currently part of the bill that would add a tax to medical device manufacturers.  I thought Mr. Clinton’s answers were very good.  He countered that in order to change the bill, AdvaMed could propose other measures instead of just being against it.  He also said that one could look at abuses in the system (overuse of technology) and try to correct those situations.

Another question was whether a bipartisan vote would be necessary.  Clinton answered that it would be nice to have, but not necessary, bringing up some economic reforms from his first term.  He also relayed an interesting story about his attempt at a healthcare reform bill when the Democrats didn’t have the house (his second term), and had Bob Dole ready to approve with some compromise, before higher ups in the Republican party wanted it stopped–and of course it never did go through.

All in all, ok speech, but much more impressive in the way he handled tough questions.