Fallout from the Medicare Modernization Act promises to rain down for years to come. Among many other things, the MMA created the Citizens' Health Care Working Group to encourage Americans "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," according to Section 1014 of the act.
To get feedback, the organization launched a road show that P.T. Barnum might have been envious of. "We have held six hearings with experts, stakeholders, scholars, public officials, and advocates," the group says in the preamble to interim recommendations that it released June 1. "We have conducted 31 community meetings, as well as special topic meetings and sponsored events, in more than 50 communities across the nation.... Citizen responses to the Working Group's Internet polls (over 10,000 as of May 15) were studied. Finally, we have read close to 5,000 individuals' commentaries on health care matters submitted by residents of this country."
What's this? The very first of six recommendations says, "It should be public policy that all Americans have affordable health care." Number two? "Define a 'core' benefit package for all Americans."
Health insurers have a huge stake in this discussion. The group wants to appoint a committee to help define what would be covered under such a package. Members will include "patients, providers, and payers. . . ."
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam wants to hear from you. Go to www.citizenshealthcare.gov to read the recommendations and to comment on them. Comments will be taken until Aug. 31. And look for our cover story in August on the pros and cons of a standard or "core" benefit package.