In 2003, President Bush signed a law creating a Citizens’ Health Care Working Group to offer health care reform solutions. This week, he dismissed their work.
The working group was a bipartisan effort, originating from GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch and Dem Sen. Ron Wyden. The group’s members included Bush’s Health and Human Services secretary Michael Leavitt.
The group’s first recommendation was “Establish public policy that all Americans have affordable health care.” It concluded:
A clear majority of participants in community meetings, as well as those who responded to a variety of national polls conducted over the past few years, are in favor of a national system that provides universal coverage.
However, “universal coverage” means different things to different people. The values and preferences being expressed did not lead the Working Group to conclude that there was only one particular model for ensuring that all Americans have access to high quality health care. Several approaches need to be analyzed and debated.
What is clear is that all Americans want a health care system that is easy to navigate.
They want to have stable coverage when circumstances change, such as when they change jobs, get married, or move to different state. People want decisions about what is and what is not covered to be made in a participatory process that is transparent and accountable. It should draw on best practices, resulting in a clearly defined set of benefits guaranteed for all Americans.
The overwhelming majority of Americans that the Working Group heard from also want health care system change to begin now. The Working Group is therefore recommending immediate action with a target of 2012 for ensuring a core set of benefits and services for all Americans.
But apparently, Bush is as interested in what citizens have to say about health care, as he is in what his military commanders say about Iraq.
And who does Bush dispatch to deliver the news? Citizens’ Health Care Working Group member Michael Leavitt!
Leavitt said the administration agrees it is important to make health care more affordable and expand insurance coverage. But he disagreed with the concept of a national commission to define coverage.
“A nationally determined set of core health benefits would place important decision-making about a person’s health care in the control of federal appointees, rather than allowing the consumer to choose the benefits that best meet their needs,” Leavitt said.
Of course, guaranteeing coverage for all does not deny choices to anyone.
It’s when you can’t afford coverage, that your ability to choose health care options is a wee-bit limited.
And Bush has now declared: your choices shall remain limited, at least until January 2009.