Saturday, June 17, 2006

News Flash: Panel finds Americans want health care

A congressionally-appointed panel has discovered that Americans want health care. That's right, they do not want to be sick, nor do they want to be surrounded by sick people. Good thinking. If the politicians listen to the people rather than the for-profit health care industry that sponsors them, America could join the rest of the civilized world in having a public health care system similar to what most industrialized countries built in the early postwar years of the last century. The Citizens' Health Care Working Group has completed their work and recommendations. Here are some excepts:

The Citizens' Health Care Working Group was created by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, Sec. 1014 to provide for the American public to "engage in an informed national public debate to make choices about the services they want covered, what health care coverage they want, and how they are willing to pay for coverage." Appointed by the Comptroller General of the United States, the Working Group consists of 14 individuals from diverse backgrounds, representing consumers, the uninsured, those with disabilities, individuals with expertise in financing benefits, business and labor perspectives, and health care providers. The Secretary of Health and Human Services also serves as a member of the Working Group. Because the Working Group's final recommendations will be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has neither participated in the development of these recommendations nor has he endorsed them. He will carefully consider them and take appropriate action.

The legislation charged the working group with holding hearings on various health care issues before issuing The Health Report to the American People. This report, completed in October 2005, provides an overview of health care in the United States for the general public, enabling them to be informed participants in the national discussion organized by the Working Group.

The law specifies that this national discussion take place through a series of Community Meetings, which at a minimum, address the following four 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?

Interim Recommendations

» CORE BENEFITS: Americans will have access to a set of affordable and appropriate core health care services by the year 2012.

Recommendation 1:
It should be public policy that all Americans have affordable health care

All Americans will have access to a set of core health care services. Financial assistance will be available to those who need it.

Across every venue we explored, we heard a common message: Americans should have a health care system where everyone participates, regardless of their financial resources or health status, with benefits that are sufficiently comprehensive to provide access to appropriate, high-quality care without endangering individual or family financial security.

Recommendation 2:
Define a "core" benefit package for all Americans

» IMMEDIATE PROTECTION FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE: Action should be taken now to better protect Americans from the high costs of health care and to improve and expand access to health care services.

Recommendation 3:
Guarantee financial protection against very high health care costs

No one in America should be impoverished by health care costs.

Establish a national program (private or public) that ensures
• Coverage for all Americans,
• Protection against very high out-of-pocket medical costs for everyone, and
• Financial protection for low income individuals and families.

Recommendation 4:
Support integrated community health networks

Recommendation 5:
Promote efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency

Recommendation 6:
Fundamentally restructure the way that palliative care, hospice care and other end-of-life services are financed and provided, so that people living with advanced incurable conditions have increased access to these services in the environment they choose

America is unique in the world in having an unshakable Can't-Do spirit in regard to Health Care, since 1948. We pay a higher percentage of our national income than any other country, have the highest doctor's incomes in the world, and have the second-worst infant mortality rate among developed countries–if you count Latvia as a developed country. Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia are tied with the U.S., but they clearly spend a lot less money on their health care, making America the world's number one loser.

Americans also rank last in the world in their health care satisfaction. They are less satisfied with their system than anyone else anywhere in the world. That says a lot.

In Canada, national health care is as Canadian as apple pie, or should I say maple syrup? A Canadian politician could no more campaign against national health care than an American politician could campaign against public education or Social Security. What kind of doofus would suggest that we replace public education with a for-profit system so just the richest half could afford to learn to read and write? What idiot would suggest we sell off Social Security and replace it with a private for-profit system modeled on internet poker? Other than Bush, nobody. Likewise, when we eventually have a modern public health care system, it will be impossible to convince people to scrap it. People will wonder why it took us so long. Well, it took us Americans a little longer to get rid of slavery, too. It's our Can't-Do Spirit. Why do the right-wingers hate Americans so much? They are paid to, by the "Health Care Industry". It's a highly profitable investment.

The constitutional right to life should be seen to extend to reasonable protection of a patient's right to live by receiving basic medical care. We could begin by giving medical care to kids in K-12. I would think everyone but the racists, fascists, and nut-cases could agree to that. Why should kids lose their lives or right to health and happiness through no fault of their own? Also, isn't it obvious that contagious diseases should be treated free, as an obvious benefit to society as a whole? Do you really want tuberculosis, influenza, and other infectious diseases in the passengers sitting next to you, and the people who are preparing your food, and so on?

By the way, giving birth is not an outpatient procedure. Don't send the mother home after a night or two, either. Give mothers a week to recuperate, and pay them for it. Then you can get that embarrassing infant mortality rate down.

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