Working Group Recommends Universal Health Coverage
The federal government should ensure that all U.S. residents have basic health insurance that is "portable and independent of health status, working status, age (and) income," according to a interim report recently released by the Citizens' Health Care Working Group, the AP/Seattle Times reports. For the report, the 14-member committee, established by Congress in late 2003 to address health care reform, surveyed 23,000 individuals in 50 U.S. communities.
The committee includes consumers, individuals with disabilities, business and labor officials and health care providers. According to the report, funds to cover the cost of universal health insurance should come from sources such as enrollee contributions, income taxes, "sin taxes" and payroll taxes.
"Assuring health care is a shared social responsibility," the report states. The report does not estimate the cost of universal health insurance.
The committee will present a final report to President Bush and Congress in the fall after a 90-day public comment period. At that time, Bush will submit a response to the report to Congress, and five congressional committees will conduct hearings on the issue.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who co-sponsored the bill that established the committee, said, "After 60 years of the same approach to health care reform, we wanted to try something different. In the past, influential people in Washington have made recommendations to the American people. Now, the hope is to see if a citizen-driven process can provide a general roadmap."
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), also a co-sponsor of the bill, in a statement called the report a "positive first step," although neither he nor Wyden said whether they will support the recommendations.
According to Marilyn Moon, a health care economist at the American Institutes for Research, the report "could work as a conversation starter." She added, "We are getting close to having a conversation on what needs to be done about health care, in part because people who have health security at the moment are less secure than they would like to be. People who have employer coverage are seeing it undermined" (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 6/9).
Sarah Berk, executive director of Health Care America, said that the report "implies massive new funding sources," adding that "massive new laws would be needed." Berk said, "We want universal access, but this report just pushes all the difficult problems onto somebody else's plate. It says government needs to do it all."
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "I'm not sure it moves the ball downfield in terms of figuring out precisely how that should be done" (AP/Seattle Times, 6/8).