Citizen's Health Care Working Group Empowers Government, Not Health Care Consumers

: David Hogberg
(202) 507-6398 or [email protected]
For Release: September 26, 2006

Washington, D.C.
- David Hogberg, senior policy analyst for The National Center for Public Policy Research, expressed disappointment with yesterday's release of the Citizen Health Care Working Group's final report.  "Despite showing a bit of openness to more consumer-based approaches, the Working Group settled for the command-and-control, government-knows-best approach to health care," said Hogberg.

The Working Group, established by the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Act, spent a year and a half holding meetings with the American public about health care.  "The final report reads as thought that they heard largely from unions, liberals and other advocates of more government involvement in health care," Hogberg said.

Members of the Working Group were appointed by the Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker.  As is often the case with government commissions, the Working Group is heavily tilted to the left.  Of the 14 participating members, one (Joseph Hansen) is the head of a union, another (Therese Hughes) has been involved with the liberal group Environmental Defense, and another (Deborah Stehr) has served on the board of the leftist group USAction.  Another three members - Richard Frank, Frank Baumeister and Catherine McLaughlin - have contributed money to Democratic politicians and organizations.  It included not one member of a free-market health care organization.

Hogberg found that the most harmful recommendation in the report called for defining "core benefits and services for All Americans."  It urged the creation of a supposedly "nonpartisan public/private group" composed in part of patients, providers, payers and other experts to establish these core benefits.  "It is the height of folly to think that a groups of 'experts' can determine what set of benefits are needed for nearly 300 million Americans," warned Hogberg.  "Every individual is different, with different health insurance needs at different times in his or her life.  What benefits a person wants should be between the individual and the health insurance provider," said Hogberg, "not at the whim of a government commission."

The Working Group also makes recommendations that work against each other. Establishing a defined core of benefits will make all insurance policies more expensive, since consumers will not have the option of buying policies without such benefits.  Yet, its first recommendation calls for public policy to ensure "that all Americans have affordable health care."  "If you want access to affordable health care, then calling for government-mandated benefits is counter-productive," said Hogberg.  "That only makes the cost of health insurance more expensive - perhaps that's why the report calls for more taxpayer subsidized insurance."

"Ultimately, the Working Group came up way short on finding cures to our health care problems," said Hogberg.  "What we need is less government in health care, not more."

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.

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