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Is Nationalized Health Care Coming to America?

New Medicare Law Establishes a Hillary-Like Health Care Working Group

March 11, 2004

Tucked away at the back of the new Medicare prescription drug law [Public Law 108-173] is a provision that looks a lot like a Hillary Clinton-style health care working group. This section of the law has serious implications for every American. In fact, it appears to be a blueprint for universal health care in the United States. And the process is going to cost taxpayers $3 million per year during fiscal years 2005 and 2006. The provision is titled "Health Care That Works for All Americans: Citizens' Health Care Working Group" and includes the following national mandates.

Stated Purposes

There are two stated purposes for establishing the Health Care Working Group. First, "to provide for a nationwide public debate about improving the health care system to provide every American with the ability to obtain quality, affordable health care coverage" [emphasis added]. This debate will be initiated by holding hearings, sponsoring community meetings, making recommendations, and publishing a national report.

Ominously, the other purpose is "to provide for a vote by Congress on the recommendations that result from the debate." In other words, the Health Care Working Group—using our tax dollars—will stir debate about universal health care, and then Congress will be pressured to vote on it.

Hearings and a National Report

The Health Care Working Group is required to hold hearings within 90 days of the appointment of its chairperson. Then, within 90 days of the completion of hearings, the Group is to publish a report titled "The Health Report to the American People." This report must include (among other provisions) a summary of:

  • health care services used by individuals;
  • cost and effectiveness of health care services for different age groups;
  • source of coverage and payment for health services;
  • reasons people are uninsured or underinsured;
  • health care outcomes and costs of treating diseases; and
  • health care cost containment strategies.

Recommendations and Public Comment

The Health Care Working Group also is required to "prepare and make available to the public through the Internet and other appropriate public channels, an interim set of recommendations on health care coverage and ways to improve and strengthen the health care system based on the information and preferences expressed at the community meetings" [emphasis added]. The public then has 90 days to submit comments.

Within 120 days of the end of the comment period the Health Care Working Group must submit to the President and Congress a final set of recommendations.

Presidential and Congressional Action Required

Within 45 days of receiving final recommendations from the Health Care Working Group, the President is required to submit a report to Congress containing "additional views and comments on such recommendations; and recommendations for such legislation and administrative actions as the President considers appropriate" [emphasis added].

Forthcoming Congressional Hearings

Then, within 45 days of receiving the report submitted by the President, each of the following congressional committees is required to hold at least one hearing on the Health Care Working Group's report and its final recommendations:

  • House Ways and Means Committee
  • House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • House Committee on Education and the Workforce
  • Senate Finance Committee
  • Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

HIPAA-Like Strategy

It is worth noting that the law creating the Health Care Working Group looks somewhat like the strategy used to create the so-called federal medical privacy regulations, which actually authorized over 600,000 entities to see Americans' medical records without their consent. The strategy used to create these regulations involved slipping a provision into law—into the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)—when most people were focused on the medical savings accounts debate.

The provision required HHS to submit to Congress recommendations regarding medical privacy. Congress and HHS held hearings on medical privacy, but most of the hearings were stacked in favor of groups wanting greater access to patients' medical records and HHS essentially ignored thousands of public comments when revising the final federal rule.

How Universal Health Care Could Affect You

Just imagine what will happen if the new Health Care Working Group ends up recommending a Medicare-like universal health care system whereby individuals would be forced to give up their private health insurance and join only federally approved insurance plans. Such a system would limit the types of treatments and providers that individuals choose—and make it illegal for citizens to pay privately for health services covered by the universal or federal health insurance system.

Also, such a system could be especially damaging to the alternative health care community, because those providers have been restricted disproportionately from serving patients receiving Medicare and other taxpayer-financed health services.

How Does the Health Care Working Group Differ from the Clinton Task Force?

The Health Care Working Group differs from the Clinton health care task force in that it will include ordinary citizens' input and it has bipartisan support (the Medicare bill was signed into law by President Bush).

Get Ready to Voice Your Own Opinions

Since every citizen likely will be affected by the new Health Care Working Group, we should all be prepared to voice our opinions regarding the direction our country is heading on health care. Here are two important questions that the Group should address:

  • Who should dictate individuals' health care choices: the government, medical industry, or individuals themselves?
  • Should people be forced to use taxpayer-financed health care, even if they choose and can afford to pay privately for health insurance and services?

Let's make sure that the forthcoming national health care debate includes input from all citizens, including those desiring true health freedom.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2004 issue of Health Freedom Watch.