Principles & Goals |
|ABOUT US: Principles & Goals
Rekindling Reform began its work in 2002 by examining the universal health
care systems of other countries and studying health care reform efforts in
the United States. With the help of these explorations, we drafted a set of
principles and goals to help guide our efforts to achieve comprehensive
health care reform in the United States. We circulated these drafts widely for
comment by experts and other organizations working for health reform. The final
product was included in the January 2003 issue of the American Journal
of Public Health. (We sent copies of that issue to every member of Congress,
every governor, and leading members of state legislatures.) These lessons
continue to inform our thinking about the nature of the health care reform
enacted in our country and the continuing process of reform that is needed
for achieving quality, affordable and accessible health care for all.
The founding of Rekindling Reform sprang from our conviction that the
health system in the United States needed comprehensive reform. When we
began our work in 2002, every other major industrialized nation was already
covering its population for health care; in the U.S., there were 40 million
people uninsured, and millions more under-insured and insecurely insured.
We were spending more than 14 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP)
on health care; other high-income nations covered everyone while spending
only 7 to 10 percent of their GDP. We realized that if the resources our
country was devoting to the health care sector were enabling quality health
care for all there would be little objection to spending 14 per cent of GDP.
But we saw that in fact the allocation of one seventh of our economy to
health care supported a system of health care financing and provision that
was unfair, inefficient, and ineffective in insuring the nation’s health.
Our Rekindling Reform initiative undertook a study of four industrialized
nations with universal health care coverage: Canada, France, Germany and
the United Kingdom. These countries organized their health care financing
systems very differently from one another: The United Kingdom has a national
health service; Canada uses fee-for-service payments to providers and annual
global budgets to hospitals administered through provincial governments;
Germany and France use non-profit entities, operating under government
oversight and regulation, to deal with health insurance funding and provider
reimbursement. We noted also that despite these differences there were some
- Health care is regarded as a universal right, not a privilege.
Access to health care is assumed to be a right of all residents. It is not dependent on an
individual choosing to participate, working for a particular employer, or paying at the time
care is received. Instead, all contribute, and all can benefit.
- The government has a key role.
In every country we examined, a strong government presence defines universal health benefits,
sets standards, and assures fairness and equity. Regardless of the specific manner in which
revenues are raised or disbursed, the national government oversees the entire process,
providing a powerful public mechanism for sharing risk and assuring that all residents have
access to essential health care.
- Health care financing is part of a national social insurance program, rather than a
system driven by private, for-profit insurance companies.
Each country examined uses some combination of governmental and non-profit management,
with only a peripheral role for private profit-making insurance companies. Health care
premiums are not calculated on the basis of actuarial risk; rather, the financing is based on the
assumption that the entire population should be part of the same risk pool and contribute their
share of premiums on the basis of ability to pay. Risk is shared by all rather than being avoided
by companies seeking competitive advantage. Public and non-profit systems are far more cost
efficient than the current U.S. health care system, as well as being vastly more humane.
- Reform of the health care financing system and coverage is frequently kept
separate from reform of the delivery system. However, there continue to be
adjustments from time to time in the provider payment systems and the organization
of the delivery system.
How providers are paid is a factor in how health services are delivered, as well as in cost
control. In all of the countries studied, there is continuing public discussion of issues affecting
the system. In particular, the balance between primary care and inpatient services, the
geographic distribution of services, the incorporation and coverage of new technology, ways
to improve the quality of care, the overall level of expenditure, and other issues are always
under public review.
Informed by these observations, a set of six principles for Rekindling Reform have been
agreed upon that outline an equitable, humane and cost-effective health care system for the
United States. These principles do not provide a detailed blueprint for changing the health care
system, but they do serve as benchmarks for judging health care reform proposals.
- Universal and Equitable Coverage.
Everyone should have equal access to the care they need when they need it, without financial
- Comprehensive Benefits and Quality Health Care.
Everyone should receive the full range of services that is effective in preventing illness and
improving health; no one should receive care that is ineffective or harmful.
- Affordable and Equitable Financing
In light of the nation s other vital needs, the cost of the entire health care system should not be
excessive. Costs should be controlled and affordability assured by: a) including everyone so
that risk is spread over the entire population and the system is financed equitably; b) reducing
paperwork and limiting structures that divert health dollars to management rather than patient
care; c) emphasizing prevention and effective community-based primary care so as to reduce
the need for costly acute care and emergency treatment. People with more money should pay
a higher proportion of their income and/or wealth than people with less money.
- Simplified Administration and Sensibly Organized Work
Individuals should not be burdened with administrative and logistical obstacles to the provision
or receipt of care. Providers and caregivers work should be organized so that they can serve
their patients to the best of their abilities under conditions that do not lead to undue job stress
The system should be organized so that individuals, providers and all those whom the system
is designed to serve have input, resulting in the maximum responsiveness to the public s needs.
- A strong public health system
The public health system should be organized to integrate the health care delivery system with
community and other preventive and social services, and maintain a safe food and water supply
and environment for all.
To put the above principles into practice, Rekindling Reform is working to achieve a health
care system that:
- guarantees that every person in the United States, regardless of age, employment or health
status, or ability to pay has access to health care;
- does not discriminate by race, gender or sexual orientation;
- works to eliminate disparities in the receipt of quality health care by eradicating financial
barriers to care and by striving to overcome non-financial barriers such as class, ethnicity,
race, language, education, gender, sexual orientation, and geography;
- addresses the needs of people with special health care needs and underserved populations
in rural and urban areas.
- provides comprehensive benefits, including prescription drugs, rehabilitation, dental care,
vision care, mental health care, complementary treatments, and occupational and long term
care services in a site appropriate to patient needs (including home, hospice or nursing home).
Benefits are sufficiently broad so that people do not have to purchase supplemental insurance
to cover multiple exclusions of medically necessary care;
- includes parity for mental health and other services;
- promotes prevention, and early intervention. Health is enhanced and clinical waste is
minimized through public health, self-care, prevention, strong primary care with a primary
care practitioner for everyone, and avoidance of unnecessary procedures;
- ensures continuity of coverage and continuity of care;
- maximizes consumer choice of health care providers and practitioners;
- promotes quality and better health outcomes;
- ensures that private coverage does not duplicate the comprehensive benefit package.
- is affordable to individuals and families, businesses and taxpayers; removes financial
barriers to needed care;
- is progressively financed, with everyone contributing according to their income
- is as cost efficient as possible, spending the greatest possible proportion of total
funds on necessary and efficient health services and a minimum proportion on the
administration of finances.
- is easy for patients and providers to use and reduces paperwork;
- ensures adequate numbers of qualified health care caregivers, practitioners, and
providers, with appropriate distribution of practitioners between primary and specialty
care, to guarantee timely access to quality care. Supports education and training programs
for all health workers;
- structures the health care work force so as to avoid excessive fatigue and the consequent
burnout and medical errors;
- promotes affirmative action programs in the training, employment, and promotion of health
workers to help the system to address the needs of underserved populations;
- assures that practitioners and other health workers are paid fairly and equitably, taking
into account their local circumstances, with timely payments to guarantee access to care;
- fosters a strong network of non-profit health care facilities, including safety net providers;
- educates consumers about their health rights and responsibilities.
- provides for ongoing evaluation and planning, with consumer, practitioner, caregiver and
provider participation, to improve the delivery of health services;
- requires that decisions about all policy and regulatory matters, including the parameters
of medically necessary care to be covered, are open and are publicly debated;
- ensures that health care is organized and administered through publicly accountable
mechanisms to result in maximum responsiveness to public needs. Accountability is public
for costs, quality and value of the services of practitioners, suppliers and administrators.