Panel Recommends Access to Affordable Health Care
All U.S. residents should have access to affordable health care by 2012, according to a report released on Monday by a federal advisory panel, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 9/26). The 2003 Medicare law included a provision for the creation of the panel -- the Citizens' Health Care Working Group -- whose 15 members include HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and representatives for consumers, the disabled, business, organized labor and health care providers (Freking, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/25).
The panel members were appointed by the U.S. comptroller general (New York Times, 9/26). During an 18-month period, the panel held 84 meetings around the country with more than 6,000 participants and received more than 14,000 responses to an Internet poll.
The panel on Monday said, "Americans clearly want a system that guarantees health care for everyone," adding, "[W]e found, across the board, that majorities were willing to pay more to ensure that all Americans are covered" (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/25). The panel said a first step should be the creation of a "national public or private program ... to ensure protection against very high out-of-pocket medical costs for everyone" (New York Times, 9/26).
The panel said Congress should create an independent "public-private entity" to define a basic set of benefits and services, which by 2012 should be made available at an affordable cost to all U.S. residents. The panel also recommended prioritization of efforts to improve health care quality and efficiency and said that end-of-life care should be restructured to offer increased access and more choices (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 9/25).
The panel did not estimate how much its proposals would cost. President Bush has 45 days to comment on the recommendations and offer a report to Congress. Five Congressional committees are then supposed to hold hearings on the recommendations (New York Times, 9/26).
The Working Group's report is available online.
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the report. The segment includes comments from Dorothy Bazos, member of the working group; Sarah Burke, executive director of Healthcare America; Patricia Maryland, chair of the working group; and David McLanahan, spokesperson for Physicians for a National Health Program (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/25).
The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.