December 09, 2004

New Funds Mean Every American Will Be Asked For Input on Changing Nations Health Care System

President signs bill funding Wyden-Hatch Health Care that Works for All Americans law

Washington, DC Americans will soon have a chance to help change Americas health care system for the better, thanks to funding signed into law today as part of the FY2005 omnibus appropriations bill. Congress has approved funding for the Health Care that Works for All Americans Act, authored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and in 2005 citizens will be invited to take part in town hall meetings and online surveys to share their views on whether and how the nations health care system should be reformed.This funding is going to kick-start a nationwide dialogue that will offer a real opportunity for Americans to find their way out of the health care thicket, said Wyden. This approach to reform a national education effort on the realities of the health care system, followed by public input from the folks who use that system has never been tried before. Its desperately needed, and the law builds in political accountability to make sure the peoples voice on health care is finally heard in the halls of Congress.For nearly 50 years, Washington has tried to impose a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution to health care, and it has not worked, Hatch said. This funding ensures that those who are truly affected patients, physicians and providers will be able to provide us with the answers those in Washington have sought to find.In early 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will appoint a Citizens Health Care Working Group, which will publish a guide on how our health care dollars are spent today. During the following months, every American will have the chance to weigh in online and at town hall meetings in every single state about whether they believe the current health care system and health care spending should be reformed and if so, how. Congress will be required to hold hearings on the recommendations of the American people, which will be provided through a final report from the Working group. Wyden and Hatch intend for legislation to be introduced based on those recommendations, and believe there will be enough grassroots support from the American people to push such legislation through Congress and to the Presidents desk.The Wyden-Hatch concept of a national discussion on health care and guaranteed action in Congress has gained support from a diverse coalition of organizations including:? American Academy of Family Physicians: Lack of health insurance isnt just a problem for the 45 million who are living without it it affects all of us, said Mary E. Frank, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a practicing family physician in Rohnert Park, Calif. The working group will focus the national discussion about health care and provide Congressional legislators and staff with valuable information from the public to guide them in reforming the health care system. We look forward to participating in this effort.? Americans for Better Care of the Dying: When we built the health care system we now have, we imagined it serving people with illnesses like heart attacks, injuries, gallstones, and childbirth, said Joanne Lynn, M.D. What we now need is mostly a system to support people who must live with serious chronic illness and disability, from conditions like strokes, dementia, cancer, and heart failure. The revisions we need are much more fundamental than just paying for drugs. We need to consider how to support family caregivers, how to ensure comfort and dignity despite illness and poverty, and how to reorganize for continuity and eventually for the end of life. To do that, we need to build commitment to shared vision, and we need many more people to become aware of the pioneering programs that already exist. Thus, the Health Care for All Americans provisions recently funded by Congress (as led by Senators Wyden and Hatch) are just the right thing at the right time. In a relatively inexpensive endeavor, the nation could forge a vision of a better care system and start taking steps to achieve it.? American Public Health Association: Availability of health care is one of the top issues facing our nation. It is a tragedy that the number of uninsured Americans continues to rise, resulting in poor physical and economic health for so many. The Health Care That Works for All Americans Act will help ensure a public voice in the policy process, said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, executive director of the American Public Health Association. This measure allows Congress to receive recommendations from real people on how to improve Americans' access to health care.? Disease Management Association of America: Patients are one half of the critical relationship that determines the outcome of every health care experience. Providing them with an opportunity to gain the knowledge necessary to weigh-in on the nations health care policy debate can only enhance the results of that effort, said Warren Todd, Executive Director of DMAA.? Families USA: One out of three non-elderly Americans without health insurance constitutes an enormous epidemic that requires immediate attention," said Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack. It is high time that this problem rises to the top of our national agenda. What's more, the growing number of Americans without health insurance is now a phenomenon that significantly affects middle class and working families. As a result, the effort to eliminate this problem is no longer simply an altruistic effort on behalf of the poor, but a matter of self-interest for almost everyone. As the national voice for health care consumers, we applaud the work of Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch, and we welcome the opportunity for public participation.? Federation of American Hospitals: American health care faces challenges in access to care, assurance of quality and ever-increasing cost. Senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch recognized the need to find solutions in their legislation, the Health Care that Works for All Americans Act, funded by the omnibus appropriations bill, said Federation President Chip Kahn. Their approach to a national dialogue in health coverage and financing comes at the right time and they are to be commended for their leadership.? Health Care Leadership Council: For too long, patients and health care consumers have been affected by health care policy without having a meaningful voice in its making, said Healthcare Leadership Council president Mary R. Grealy. As we shape a 21st century health care system that merges innovation, quality and cost-effectiveness, a national discussion is both welcome and necessary. Senators Wyden and Hatch have shown vision and leadership in adding a new dimension to America's health care debate.? National Association of Community Health Centers: We know well the faces of the uninsured in America: they are our hardworking neighbors and friends whose jobs do not provide them coverage or who work for wages that keep private insurance out of reach, said Dan Hawkins, Vice President For Policy. We whole-heartedly agree that a nationwide public debate is absolutely essential to lay the groundwork for effective health care reforms. And as national voice for community-owned and operated organizations, we thoroughly support your vision of bringing the American people into the center of this debate.All citizens are encouraged to watch for the 2005 publication of the Health Report to the American People, which will be available online and at local libraries. Every American is invited to read the guide and then join the discussion to create a health care system that works for all.This is the best opportunity in years to enact meaningful health reform, and next year public participation will be key, said Wyden. When the American people hear where their health dollars go, and speak up for themselves on how those dollars can be spent better, Congress will have a mandate to move ahead with real reform. Thats why the funding provided in this omnibus bill is so important: it lets us begin a conversation that has real potential to end with a health care system that truly works for all Americans.Real health-care reform will come from the people, not bureaucrats in Washington, Hatch said. This funding will start a national discussion on costs of medical care and insurance, how to lower drug costs, and how to make services more widely available. In the end, well have a national consensus that Congress can use to enact lasting reform.