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Health-Care Reform Panel Delivers Report

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Health-Care Reform Panel Delivers Report

Health Care

Health-Care Reform Panel Delivers Report

Health-Care Reform Panel Delivers Report

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A task force ordered by Congress delivers its recommendations for reforming the health-care system to President Bush. The law establishing the group requires the president to comment within 45 days — and for five different Congressional committees to hold hearings within 45 days after that.

MELLISA BLOCK, host:

A healthcare task force created by Congress is trying to rekindle a national debate on what to do about the rising cost of healthcare and the rising number of Americans without health insurance. The group delivered its final report and recommendations to President Bush today. Now, the president is required by law to forward the report with his own recommendations to Congress.

NPR's Julie Rovner explains.

JULIE ROVNER: The Citizens' Health Care Working Group was established as part of the 2003 Medicare drug law. Its task was to report to Congress and the president what the public wants the healthcare system to look like. To get to the recommendations reported today, members held hearings and town hall meetings in 37 states, conducted Internet and telephone polls and went through three rounds of findings. In the end, said Working Group member Dorothy Bazos, al that boiled down to a single overarching goal.

Ms. DOROTHY BAZOS (Citizens' Health Care Working Group): We are recommending immediate action that public policy establishing that all Americans have affordable healthcare be enacted in 2007 and that this public policy be fully implemented by the target date of 2012.

ROVNER: Patricia Maryland, a hospital administrator from Indiana who chaired the group, said what's surprised members most was how much the public supports that goal.

Ms. PATRICIA MARYLAND (Citizens' Health Care Working Group): And it was a consistent message - red states, blue states - wherever we ended up going. And that surprised us. Individuals who have all socioeconomic levels who were saying the same message.

ROVNER: Maryland says this report is different from past efforts, in part because it requires action from official Washington, even if it's only a report from the president and hearings in five separate congressional committees. But while the report includes a raft of other recommendations, from short term universal coverage for catastrophic healthcare costs to electronic medical records, Maryland says the group left a lot of questions unanswered, including the fundamental problem of financing.

Ms. MARYLAND: How we pay for that we really haven't talked about, we don't have the answers.

ROVNER: But the politics surrounding the report began even before it was issued. Sarah Burke is executive director of Healthcare America, which favors a more market based system, she says she agrees with many of the report's goals but did it seems to her to be suggesting -

Ms. SARAH BURKE (Healthcare America): A government-run, government takeover of healthcare. So we're here to raise a red flag and say wait a second, we want to preserve consumer choice and create a system that protects choice and access, but does so with free market principles and public/private partnerships.

ROVNER: But physicians for a national health program, which does favor healthcare system run by the government, says the recommendations are tilted the other way. David McLanahan is a retired surgeon from Seattle and a spokesman for the group. He says at the meeting he attended and on the working group's Web site it was pretty clear that the consensus was more what his group envisions.

Dr. DAVID MCLANAHAN (National Health Program): Medicare for all type, insurance for everybody, one tier system where there's no need for safety nets, everybody gets comprehensive care. And if you look at the final recommendations it falls pretty far shorter than and I don't think it expresses its consensus.

ROVNER: But the politics really start now. President Bush has 45 days from today to add his comments and forward the recommendations to Congress, which then has 45 more days to hold it's required hearings.

Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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