Citizens' Health Care Working Group Video Script

[1: Introduction]

What’s good about our health care system in the United States? What’s wrong? What can you do to make it better?

These are questions that are vitally important because they affect not only you, but also your family, your friends, your business, and the nation — virtually everyone and everything that matters to you.

We have great health care in our country but both health care and the health care system are far from perfect. I’m sure you’ve known or heard about people who’ve had problems with our health care system. Maybe they couldn’t get treatment they needed because insurance wouldn’t authorize it or they found that dealing with the bureaucracy and red tape were more stressful than dealing with the illness itself. Maybe the high and rising costs of health care are hurting their family’s or their company’s financial well being. Maybe these have even been dilemmas you or someone you love has had to face.

That’s why your involvement in the discussions about what changes are needed in our health care system matters so much.

And Congress sought to encourage just such a public debate about the health care system.

That’s where the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group came in. For over 15 months the Working Group actively engaged the public in an ongoing dialogue about our health care system. You told them what you think works, what’s not working, and what needs to change. And they listened. They took input from thousands of people like you, and then submitted recommendations for change.

You might be asking, “How exactly did the Working Group get input from people like me? What did the Working Group recommend? What happened with these recommendations? Finally, what can I do now?”

First, let me tell you where the Working Group Members came from and how it did its work.

[2: Mission]

It all started several years ago. The United States Congress passed the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. Part of that law required the creation of the Working Group and articulated its mission to provide for a nationwide, public debate about improving the health care system. The Act stipulated that the Working Group use what it heard during this public debate to develop an action plan to provide health care that works for all Americans for Congress and the President to consider.

Health care that works. That’s what the Working Group was all about. It set out in 2005 to answer four vital questions, questions that are at the heart of the public debate about health care: What health care benefits and services should our system provide? How do we want health care delivered? How do we want to finance health care coverage? And finally, what kinds of benefits or financing trade-offs are we willing to accept in order to provide affordable, high-quality health care for all?

[3: Working Group Members]

I bet you’re wondering who made up the Working Group.

You’ll be pleased to know that members were not politicians or lobbyists, but rather people like you-- people who have experienced the health care system both from the inside as well as the outside. The Working Group Members were selected to represent consumers of health services, individuals without insurance, those with chronic illnesses, those who receive insurance coverage through Medicare and Medicaid, individuals with academic and practical expertise in financing and paying for benefits and access to care, business and labor perspectives, and providers of health care such as doctors and nurses. They were also selected because they came from all over the country and from urban as well as rural areas.

The individuals on the Working Group have faced many of the same difficulties you have and know about the care you need when you find yourself in the role of patient, as well as what it takes to deliver that care. This diversity of background enriched the Working Group’s engagement with you and its deliberations regarding what changes are needed in our health care system.

[4: Informing You]

And so, the Working Group took up the challenge. What did it do?

Well, one of its first tasks was to help to educate the public about the current state of our health care system. After all, for the public debate to be constructive people needed solid information that went beyond their own personal experiences.

First, the Working Group held public hearings where they heard presentations from health care professionals and administrators, employers and unions, experts on health insurance and health care costs, and community leaders. It examined the health care polls conducted by others during the past few years. Much of what was heard and read was incorporated into The Health Report to the American People, issued in 2005 to start the discussion. The report identified some of the major problems in our current system, acknowledged some of the solutions being tried around the country, and issued an invitation to the public to get involved and to provide input. You can read The Health Report to the American People on the Working Group’s web site.

[5: On the Road]

After publishing The Health Report to the American People, the Working Group fostered a nationwide, public debate, engaging people from all walks of life. From January through August 2006, the Working Group Members traveled the country and hosted dozens of community meetings in places like Baton Rouge, LA, Seattle, WA, Miami, FL, Fargo, ND, and many other places.

At the community meetings members asked questions, and most importantly, listened. The Working Group heard about peoples’ experiences with the current health care system, the problems and frustrations, but also the successes.

[6: Citizens’ Online]

But the Working Group didn’t just rely on community meetings and hearings —to reach as many people as possible, it harnessed the power of the Internet to collect public comment and opinion. The Working Group hosted online surveys and encouraged online discussions that helped to fuel the public debate about the health care system. It also hosted virtual “town hall” meetings online. And people like you responded. In fact, there were over 25,000 responses. Finally, the Working Group received public input through the mail, telephone calls, and one-on-one personal encounters. From all these sources, the Working Group heard many personal stories and obtained a diverse range of opinions and suggestions for providing health care that works for everyone.

[7: Interim Report]

After listening, what did the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group do with all that public input?

First, the summary results of this input were compiled in a document available online, called the Dialogue with the American People.

Then, in June of 2006, the Working Group used the information it had collected to write and publish Interim Recommendations. The Interim Recommendations provided a first draft of the Working Group’s vision and plan to make broad-based changes to our health care system. These Interim Recommendations were distributed and advertised widely, which included sending out individual video email messages to thousands. The Working Group also encouraged supporters of the health care debate to spread the word.

The Working Group invited public comment on the Interim Recommendations to get a sense of what people thought about its progress to that point. The Working Group also continued the public debate and discussion for several more weeks by hosting additional community meetings.

The following is the text of the comments of Dotty Bazos, Member, Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, made at the final Press Conference, September 25, 2006:

"For one moment, I invite you to think about a health care system based on the following principles; principles that were developed through a dialogue with the American people:

Think about a health system in which we agree that health and health care are fundamental to everyone’s well being and security.

Think about a health care system in which health is a shared social responsibility, in which all Americans have access to a guaranteed set of core benefits and services, and benefits are portable and independent of an individual’s health and financial circumstances.

Think about a health system that is designed to use our private and public resources most efficiently, most effectively."

[8: Recommendations]

At the end of the summer of 2006, the Working Group officially closed the period of public comment and began finalizing its recommendations on how to provide health care that works for everyone.

What do the final recommendations say?

Well, to summarize, the Working Group concluded that we need to address the entire health care system, as well as specific concerns related to cost, quality, and access. Beyond the urgency to individuals of cost, quality, and access, the Working Group recommended a comprehensive solution. The introductory recommendation is that it be made public policy that all Americans have affordable health care.

I urge you read the Final Recommendations as well as the supporting documents. The final act of the Working Group, as required by the same law that created it, was to submit its final recommendations to both the Congress and the President. After receiving the final recommendations, the law directed the President to provide to Congress a report that contains additional views and comments on the recommendations. The mandate to Congress was to hold hearings based on both the President’s report and the Working Group’s Final Recommendations.

[9: Press Conference]

The following is the text of the comments of Pat Maryland, Chair, Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, made at the final Press Conference, September 25, 2006:

"Now our job is to report back to the President and to the U.S. Congress on what we learned. We heard remarkable consensus across the nation. It didn’t matter what city we were in, urban or rural, large or small, the east coast or the west coast, north or south. It didn’t matter if the person was young or old, employed or unemployed, sick or healthy, educated or not, Hispanic or African American or Caucasian.

We heard a consistent theme over and over again, at our community meetings and from those that participated on our internet survey. What is even more remarkable is the consistency of our findings with recent national polling. No matter how we sliced or diced the results, we kept hearing the same theme and call to action:

Americans want a health care system where everyone has access to high quality care. They want a health care system where no one is impoverished by high health care costs. Americans believe that everyone should contribute and that there should be no free riders. Americans believe that everyone needs to take personal responsibility for their health care but should not be unfairly penalized for their ill health. They also believe that our system should be simpler to navigate and should be community based. Americans believe that we should be able to improve and streamline our health care system to become much more efficient. And finally, Americans believe that we can do better when it comes to caring for individuals at the end of life.

We know that there will be some individuals who will not agree with these findings. They may say that we didn’t hear from enough people or that we heard from the wrong people, but I can tell you that there was common ground and a common call for action.

The American people want a health care system that is fair, affordable, and available to all Americans. This message was loud and clear. As stated earlier, this sentiment is remarkably similar to the results we see in national polls when the subject is health care. We heard many interesting and innovative ideas and it was those ideas that helped us to develop a set of steps to achieve our long-term goal: that all Americans have affordable health care by 2012.

Americans want the gridlock to end in Washington and they want the President and Congress to move ahead."

[10: What’s Next?]

Where do you go from here? The decisions to be made about how to change our health care system are too important for you to stand on the sidelines.

What can you do? Turns out, there’s plenty:

First, get the facts from the web site, as well as other sources of current information on these subjects. If you haven’t already, read The Health Report to the American People and the Final Recommendations. Think about what’s important to you and why.

Next, speak out about how you want the health care system to change. Let others know what you think. Seek others who share your concerns and share your concerns with them.

The need for ongoing debate does not end with a report to Congress and the President. The health care system needs improvement throughout and you may be able to contribute to its improvement if you are well informed.

That’s up to you. After all, it’s your health care system.