- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2008


J. Patrick Rooney had an idea. Americans should be able to “own their own health care.” They should be empowered to resist the whims of hulking, predatory health-care bureaucracies. With verve and grace, Mr. Rooney nudged the country modestly in that direction. He died Monday at age 80, a model of the public-minded business executive who cared about more than the bottom line.

Mr. Rooney, previously the chairman and CEO of the Golden Rule Insurance Co., is best remembered as the publicist-in-chief for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the tax-free medical accounts established by the 2003 America’s Health Insurance Plans.

We recall Mr. Rooney rolling out the characteristic green eyeshades three years ago in an editorial briefing at Washington hasn’t risen to Mr. Rooney’s level just yet.

HSAs may never have caught on had Mr. Rooney not made a full-court press on Republican Washington in the 1990s and 2000s. He donated more than $1 million in direct campaign contributions, “soft money” and other projects over that period, illustrating the political animal within. But Mr. Rooney differed from the stereotype of the wealth party bankroller. He never lost sight of the noble things that drew him to politics in the first place.

Let’s also recognize Mr. Rooney’s other legacy: civil-rights champion. He fought health-insurance discrimination against minorities in the 1970s. He championed school choice for poor inner-city children.

In short, the welfare of others simply mattered to Mr. Rooney. He lived accordingly.

The Golden Rule, as it appears in Matthew 7:12, exhorts: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Would that more American executives could come as close to fulfilling that command as Mr. Rooney did.

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