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Comptroller General Walker Names 14 Members to Citizens' Health Care Working Group

GAO Press Release: February 28, 2005

Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker today is naming 14 members of the Citizens' Health Care Working Group, the first step in a two-year process to hold a national dialogue on issues related to health care services, delivery and cost.

By law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will serve as the 15th member of the Working Group.

The Working Group was created by Congress to hold hearings and community meetings across the country on health care coverage and cost issues, and to issue a "Health Report to the American People." Within two years from these appointments, it must submit recommendations to Congress and the President.

Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO), chose the 14 members from among more than 530 people who applied. The members represent many regions of the country and a broad range of health care perspectives, including consumers, providers, employers and workers. The statute required that the appointments include people with personal experience or expertise in paying for benefits and issues of access to care. (Select for biographies of the 14 members.)

Consistent with the underlying purpose of the Working Group, none of the appointees are current or former elected officials or registered lobbyists. In addition, only one of the 14 appointees is from Washington, D.C.

From among the 14, Walker has selected Randall L. Johnson, director of Human Resources Strategic Initiatives for Motorola, to serve as chairman of the Working Group, and Catherine G. McLaughlin, a professor at the University of Michigan's Department of Health Management and Policy, as vice chair.

"This distinguished and diverse group of Americans has accepted a call to address a challenge of great importance to all Americans: How to make quality health care more accessible and affordable to every man, woman and child in an economically rational and fiscally responsible manner," Walker said. "We are extremely grateful for their willingness to serve."

"We need to reexamine every aspect of our health care system, because its current course threatens both our economic and national security," Walker added. "Many policymakers, industry experts and medical practitioners contend that the health care system—in both the public and private sectors—is in crisis. Long-term spending for health care is driven by both the aging of our population and the rapid growth of health care costs."

"In the private sector, employers and other private purchasers of health care services find that the soaring cost of health insurance premiums poses a threat to their competitive position in an increasingly global marketplace. In the public sector, although Social Security is currently the largest program in the federal budget, it will soon be eclipsed by Medicare and Medicaid. Our government is on an unsustainable fiscal path, and health care is one of many important priorities that need to be reexamined in a constructive and comprehensive manner," Walker said.

The Comptroller General was tasked with appointing the members of the Working Group, and will fill vacancies should the need arise. It will have its own executive director and staff, including staffers detailed from the Departments of Labor and HHS.

For more information, contact GAO's Office of Public Affairs at (202) 512-4800.