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August, 2006, Vol. 06, Issue 08

Affordable, Appropriate Health Care for All by 2012?

Federal Working Group Wants Your Input

By Michael Devitt

The Citizens' Health Care Working Group, a nonpartisan government organization established through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, has published a set of interim recommendations designed to address problems in the U.S.

health care system from a variety of perspectives, with a goal of having a set of "appropriate and affordable health care services" in place by 2012. While the recommendations do not pertain to any specific health care profession or class of providers, all members of the massage profession are encouraged to review and comment on the recommendations, which can be accessed for free on the working group's Web site, www.CitizensHealthCare.gov.

The Citizens' Health Care Working Group was created through a provision included in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, as a means of giving Americans the opportunity to engage in a national debate about the types of health care services they want covered, what level of health care coverage they want, how coverage should be financed, and what types of concessions they would be willing to make to ensure access to high-quality care. The group's main purposes, according to the act, are to "provide for a nationwide public debate about improving the health care system to provide every American with the ability to obtain quality, affordable health care coverage," and to "provide for a vote by Congress on the recommendations that result from the debate."

More than 30 health care agencies and trade groups have pledged their official support for the organization. Currently, the group also has the official support of more than two dozen members of Congress.

Published on the working group's Web site on June 1, 2006, the interim recommendations, which reflect the opinions of more than 20,000 people who have participated online and in community meetings since the group's formation, outline a plan for helping to achieve broad-based change in the American health care system. At present, the working group has established six recommendations, with the goal of providing all Americans access to "a set of affordable and appropriate core health care services" by 2012. Among the recommendations:

  • Making a public policy that all Americans have affordable health care.
  • Defining a "core" benefits package for all Americans.
  • Guaranteeing financial protection against exceedingly high health care costs.
  • Development and expansion of integrated community health networks.
  • Creating and advancing efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency.
  • Restructuring the ways in which palliative care, hospice and other services are provided and financed.

Public Comment Period Now Open

The public comment period to the working group's interim recommendations officially ends Aug. 31, 2006. Once the comment period has ended, the working group is required to submit a final set of recommendations to Congress and the president. Within 45 days of receiving the final recommendations, the president must submit to Congress a report containing additional views and comments, along with recommendations for legislative and administrative actions the president considers appropriate. The act also designates five congressional committees (the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) to hold hearings on the president's report and the working group's recommendations.

All interested parties are encouraged to read the working group's interim recommendations and submit their comments before the Aug. 31 deadline. Comments may be submitted online at the www.citizenshealthcare.gov; by regular mail (Citizens' Health Care Working Group, ATTN: Interim Recommendations, 7201 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 575, Bethesda, MD 20814); or by e-mail to . Additional in-formation about the recommendations, the process used to seek public input, and findings from the group's previous meetings and online polls also can be found at the above-noted Web site.

 

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