Posted on October 5, 2006

"Citizens' Health Care Working Group" Ignores Citizens


Congressional Task Force Disregards Public’s Call for National Health Insurance

September 27, 2006

David McLanahan, M.D. - (206) 937-7154
Garrett Adams, M.D. - (502) 895-8847
Nick Skala - (312)782-6006

The group created by Congress to listen to Americans’ ideas for improving the health system has ignored their overwhelming advice to create a national health insurance program. Although a national health program was by far the most favored option at 86 percent (25 of 29) of the meetings of the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group (CHCWG), the group’s recommendations avoid the clear public preference for government-guaranteed health coverage.

When given a choice of ten reform options at public hearings held by the CHCWG, participants clearly favored a national health program by a margin of at least 3 to 1. At meetings where participants were asked to rank the 10 options, national health insurance was ranked first 16 of 19 times (Billings, MT; Denver; Des Moines; Detroit; Eugene, OR; Jackson, MS; Kansas City, MO; Memphis; Miami; New York, NY; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Providence, RI; Sacramento; and Seattle). At two meetings participants were neither polled nor options ranked.

Despite the clear public mandate, the CHCWG’s report makes no mention of the vast support for a national health program. Instead, the group’s official recommendations include only generic suggestions such as promoting “efforts to improve quality of care and efficiency.” and finding a way to protect “against very high health costs.”

“The structure of the meeting and the way the questions were presented were obviously geared toward producing recommendations that would fall far short national health insurance.” said Dr. David McLanahan, a surgeon who attended the Seattle hearing. “It was very clear, however, that a national program was what the vast majority of people at the hearing wanted.”

Dr. Garrett Adams, a pediatrician from Louisville, participated in a CHCWG-sponsored teleconference at which he complained about the questions’ bias in writing. “I felt that the questions were written in such a way as to require you to acknowledge premises with which I disagreed,” Dr. Adams said. “Even so, the Working Group’s own data shows that most of the participants at the public hearing in Lexington supported a national health program. I think it was incredibly brave, here in the home state of Humana, for citizens to speak out on behalf of a program that would threaten the profits of huge insurance and drug firms.”

Most supporters of a national health program favor a single-payer system, which retain the private delivery of health care by physicians and hospitals, but organizes payment under a single public agency. A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a single-payer national health insurance program would save enough on administrative costs — more than $300 billion per year — to cover all of the uninsured and provide full benefits for everyone else.

The 15-member CHCWG was created as a part of the 2003 Medicare drug bill to hold public hearings on health care and make recommendations to the President and Congress on “ways to improve and strengthen the health care system based on the information and preferences expressed at the community meetings.”

To see the meeting data from the CHCWG report, follow this link:

Summary and data reports from individual community meetings can be found at:


PNHP has physicians and citizens who attended the CHCWG community meetings and are available for comment. To request an interview, contact Nicholas Skala at 312-782-6006.

Physicians for a National Health Program is an organization of 14,000 physicians that support single-payer national health insurance. PNHP is headquartered in Chicago and has chapters and spokespeople across the U.S. To contact a physician-spokesperson in your area, contact or call 312-782-6006.