A federal advisory panel said Monday that Congress should take immediate steps to guarantee that all Americans have access to affordable health care by 2012.
As a first step, the 14-member panel, appointed by the comptroller general of the United States, said, “A national public or private program must be established to ensure protection against very high out-of-pocket medical costs for everyone.”
The panel, the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, said Congress should create an independent “public-private entity” to define a basic set of health care benefits and services for all Americans.
While leaving many details to be worked out, the panel declared, “It should be public policy, written in law, that all Americans have affordable access to health care.”
The panel was created by the 2003 law that added a drug benefit to Medicare. Under the law, President Bush has 45 days to comment on the recommendations and offer his views in a report to Congress. The citizens’ group went to great lengths to solicit opinions from average Americans, in addition to health experts. It tried to forge a consensus after listening to views expressed by more than 7,000 people at 98 community meetings in 37 states.