AFCM Interviews First HSA President, William West, M.D.
Among its competitors in the money for medicine movement, Pennsylvania-based First HSA is unique: the profitable business is run by what Ayn Rand called “the forgotten man of socialized medicine”: the doctor.
His name is William West, an obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice in Reading, Pennsylvania. Unlike other doctors engaged in health care policy, such as altruistic Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the heart surgeon senator who favors government intervention in medicine, Dr. West actively practices medicine.
As the medical profession, dominated by government-instituted programs such as HMOs and PPOs, began to tilt toward total socialism in the late 1990s, Dr. West became fed up with the regulations destroying his ability to practice. He co-founded First MSA, one of America’s first administrators of the forerunner to HSAs (it later became First HSA).
AFCM arranged an interview with Dr. West to be conducted on a Sunday morning, but, on the day it was scheduled, Dr. West contacted AFCM to explain that he had to postpone the interview. One of his patients had been rushed to the hospital and he was headed there to be at her side and assist in the medical emergency.
The father of five children—ranging in age from six to 25—Dr. West, 44, is that rare doctor in today’s bureaucratic system. Neither willing to succumb to government-controlled medicine nor inclined to depend on others to save medicine from socialism, he is not ready to quit—not without mounting intellectual opposition. Foremost in the philosophy of William West, a man of both principle and action, is the drive to be in the business of delivering health care while also in the business of financing health care.
William West, M.D. is a past member of the Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania Medical Association and an active staff doctor at Reading Hospital and Medical Center. Please note that First HSA is a member of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine (AFCM).
AFCM: Why did you become a doctor?
William West: I love delivering babies and bringing life into this world. Through my training, I found that I love caring for people. My grandfather was a family doctor. My father was an Obstetrician and Gynecologist. We all went to the same medical school, Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. My family has been taking care of women in Pennsylvania for over 74 years—on over 10,000 deliveries. It has to be one of the most rewarding professions in the world.
AFCM: Why did you create First MSA, which became First HSA?
WW: Out of the frustration that no one else would. I’ve found I have a business acumen that most doctors don’t. I first heard about MSAs in 1995. The MSA made sense to me because it gave everyone an incentive to own their health insurance. First MSA was founded in 1999 and opened doors on June 1, 2000.
AFCM: Which principle defines First HSA?
WW: As a doctor driven by frustration about managed care, I’m passionate about the need for meaningful change based on the freedom of the doctor-patient relationship without the restrictions of a third party [payer] system. I thought we needed a new system. Through all my research, Medical Savings Accounts were that new system. Health Savings Accounts are the greatest change to our health care system since the enactment of Medicare. HSAs are a positive change.
AFCM: How did the business start?
WW: Because the MSA combines health insurance and health care delivery, I approached my best friend, Brian Miskovitz, who has an insurance background, about it. It was a mutual decision [to start First MSA]. He left a very secure job as a marketing director, having been in the health and life insurance industry for ten years and I think he was frustrated because the health insurance market in Pennsylvania was dominated by [health care purchasing cooperatives Blue Cross and Blue Shield]. The small, individual market place just wasn’t there. I did the business plan and he ran the business. He hired, he produced our Web site, he developed the nationwide agent network. I lectured about MSAs, practiced medicine, and put my own money into it. So did he. We became profitable for the first time in the last two months.
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