Love? As boss of IBC, the region's dominant health insurer, Frick had to put the screws to Temple, Jefferson, and other hospital systems as billings soared. They
fought, they split, they sued.
Just business, says Frick: "Everybody appreciated that I was open, that I tried to solve problems. Health care's very challenging, because of the need, and the reform environment."
I asked Frick, a onetime executive with The Inquirer's parent company and a cancer survivor, his early view of Tuesday's proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and his Republican allies to replace Medicare and Medicaid with private health-insurance subsidies - as a way to cut the federal deficit and force medical prices down.
"Everybody's trying to accomplish a value-based system where the individual has an incentive to take care of his own health," Frick insisted.
"Leadership's going to be very important in making that happen. I'll have an opportunity to help find progressive, collaborative, action-oriented leaders as we refine and tweak what I think is still the best health-care system in the world."
Richard Bryers, an aide to the late Sen. John Heinz (R., Pa.) and lately an adviser to Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, read my column last month about the Philadelphia School District's millions of dollars in interest-rate swap losses to Wall Street banks. Bryers said it's an example of a bigger problem:
"Our capital system is broken and dysfunctional. Markets are not performing their function of providing many sources of competing capital, and many kinds of competing capital - loans, stock issuance, private equity - so that borrowers can access appropriate costs of capital for long-term investments."
Instead, banks are rewarded for short-term trading in speculative investments, like swaps, he said. "And that is because we have public policies in place encouraging the behavior."
When Heinz served on the Senate Banking and Finance committees, he resisted calls to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act's ban on investment banking by commercial banks. "Heinz was not convinced it was a wise move," Bryers told me.
"Critics thought he was being stubborn and old-fashioned. His judgment seems borne out by our post-repeal experience," in the collapse of Citigroup, Wachovia, American International Group, and other hybrid institutions within a decade after the GOP-led Senate and President Clinton scrapped Glass-Steagall in 1999.
Heinz did compromise on letting government-insured savings and loans lend to business. But after the resulting "S&L debacle," Heinz was a leader in seeking criminal prosecutions, enhancing prosecutorial power, and widening opportunities to seize and recover diverted assets.
"He also had a great idea: Allow 'bounty hunter' lawyers to take up civil cases against bad actors on behalf of the taxpayer and keep some of the recovered funds," Bryers said.
Compare that with the mild sanctions against the bank-wreckers of the mid-2000s.
"The reactions of the current and past two Congresses and the past three administrations to the fraud in the system has been to leave all the public policies in place, which encourage fraud and short-term behavior, and to let the malefactors go their merry way," Bryers concluded.
"I don't believe that Heinz would have agreed to that abject posture of submission."
Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com.