Health Care With A Guarantee?

A citizen group is telling Congress what Americans want when it comes to health care: protection for all from outrageously high medical expenses and a guarantee of coverage for certain tests and treatments.

The group is known as the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group and they were created by Congress to assist in the execution Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. The fifteen members of the citizens’ group represent businesses, organized labor, health care providers, and consumers. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is also a member.

In the last eighteen months, the group held more than eighty meetings around the country and talked to more than 6600 people about the state of health care in this country. More than fourteen thousand people responded to internet polls about the same thing. Just what questions were asked in these meetings and polls?

The Working Group asked citizens to give their answers to four vital questions:

  • What health care benefits and services should be provided?
  • How does the American public want health care delivered?
  • How should health care coverage be financed?
  • What trade-offs are the American public willing to make in either benefits or financing to ensure access to affordable, high-quality health care coverage and services?

And what they found was that people want protection from high medical expenses and guaranteed coverage for certain tests and treatments. Many respondents were willing to pay increased insurance costs to ensure that everyone could have access to health care. Many consumers believe that the government could transfer money from other programs to help pay for these guaranteed treatments for all.

What those tests and treatments would be is another question. Some fear that virtually everything would have to be included in the list of “guaranteed” treatments to make everyone happy — both consumers and providers. Having so many tests and treatments guaranteed could drive health insurance costs way up.

And the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group realizes that making up a list of guaranteed tests and treatments would be a huge challenge. Ideally, they would like to see an independent, nonpartisan group set the benefits. What do you think? What tests and treatments would you want to see on that list of “guaranteed” benefits?