White House Late in Responding to Report on Health Care Reform
The Bush administration is four months late in issuing its response to a report by the Citizens' Health Care Working Group recommending changes to the U.S. health care system, The Hill reports.
The Working Group was created under the 2003 law that enacted the Medicare prescription drug benefit. According to its mission statement, the Working Group is required to foster "a nationwide public debate about improving the health care system to provide every American with the ability to obtain quality, affordable health coverage" and to develop "an action plan for Congress and the president to consider as they work to make health care that works for all Americans."
The panel -- whose members include hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, a union president and a corporate benefits manager -- issued its recommendations to the White House and Congress on Sept. 29, 2006, after holding public meetings around the country and conducting research on health care issues for nearly a year. Under the law, Bush was to submit a response to the Working Group's recommendations within 45 days.
The "only official action" taken by the White House since the recommendations were issued was a Jan. 5 statement in which Bush designated HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt as his surrogate, The Hill reports.
The law also states that five congressional committees each must hold one hearing on the report within 45 days of receiving the president's response. The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday will hold a hearing on the recommendations, despite the lack of action by the White House.
The panel's recommendations include ensuring that all people have access to an affordable package of core health care benefits by 2012 and requiring all citizens to participate in a reformed health care system.
An HHS spokesperson said, "We're in the process of finishing up the response and hope to have it out soon."
A Senate Finance Committee spokesperson said that the committee was not waiting for HHS to issue its response, but added "We feel that it matters that the administration follow the law."
House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said, "It doesn't surprise me that President Bush is ignoring this Citizens' Health Care Working Group. For years, Bush has ignored the 47 million people without health insurance and continues to ignore all of America's citizens in his relentless pursuit of the war in Iraq" (Young, The Hill, 3/9).