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Patrick Rooney; helped start accounts for medical savings

Associated Press / September 17, 2008
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INDIANAPOLIS - Insurance executive J. Patrick Rooney, who pioneered the marketing of medical savings accounts and briefly ran for governor of Indiana, has died, his attorney, John Sullivan, said Monday. He was 80.

Mr. Rooney apparently died in his sleep in his Indianapolis home, Sullivan said. A cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Mr. Rooney briefly sought the 1996 Republican nomination for governor and was a longtime financial contributor to GOP candidates.

Sullivan said Mr. Rooney would be remembered as an innovator who fought for the uninsured and the underinsured.

"He was very concerned about those who had less than he did," Sullivan said.

Rooney once said, "I would prefer to have on my tombstone a saying that, 'Here was a good problem solver that made things better for Indiana.' "

Mr. Rooney became chairman, president, and chief executive of Golden Rule Insurance Co., a business based in Lawrenceville, Ill., in 1976 and moved the company to Indianapolis in the 1980s. He retired as chairman in 1996. It has since been acquired by UnitedHealth Group, which is based in Minnesota.

"He was a true believer in the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes," said former US representative Andy Jacobs Jr., a Democrat of Indiana and a longtime friend who was the main House sponsor of the bill that created federal tax credits for medical savings accounts, also known as health savings accounts.

"He will also be remembered as the father of the health savings account, the leading free-market reform to the current crisis of the uninsured in America," said Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican. "His unshakeable belief in the ability of the individual to make their own healthcare choices has shaped the American healthcare debate for the past decade."

Golden Rule at the time was one of the leading sellers of individual health insurance. It hired more than a dozen lobbying firms in the 1990s to promote its interests in Congress and, with Mr. Rooney and other executives, donated more than $1 million in direct campaign gifts, unrestricted "soft money" to political parties, and help for lawmakers' projects. It was among the largest supporters of former House speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Rooney remained active with the Fairness Foundation, a nonprofit based in Indianapolis that helps low-income children expand their education options and the uninsured get healthcare and challenge large hospital bills.

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