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New healthcare reform group launched in US

A group of 40 major US companies have formed the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, whose goal is to lower healthcare costs while increasing access to care by 2009

A group of 40 major US companies have joined together to form the Coalition to Advance Healthcare Reform, which will work toward the goal of lowering healthcare costs while simultaneously increasing access to care by 2009.

The new coalition will be managed by Jack Quinn and Ed Gillespie, co-founders and co-chairmen of the Washington, DC-based government relations and communications firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

The group's efforts will revolve around five "core principles" that it believes will lead to positive change in state and federal policies: a market-based healthcare system; universal coverage with individual responsibility; financial assistance for low-income Americans; incentives for healthier behaviours; and equal tax treatment.

"Markets require transparent information on cost and quality to work efficiently; today's healthcare system fails this requirement," according to the coalition. "Healthcare reform policies must provide consumers full access to simple, reliable and transparent information about costs and quality of care, underpinned by cost-effective technology such as transportable digital medical records and e-prescriptions."

The group also advocates a requirement that all Americans must have health insurance whether or not they are employed, with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Low-income participants should be provided with financial assistance to help them obtain health coverage but should not be given free healthcare, the group argues.

In addition, individual consumers should be offered the same tax deductions related to the purchase of health insurance as businesses already receive, the coalition believes.

The formation of the coalition was announced at a May 14 press conference in Washington, DC, where lawmakers from both political parties, including Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat/ Oregon), Senator Bob Bennett (Republican/ Utah) and Congressman Brian Baird (Democrat/ Washington), met with coalition members to discuss the issues being targeted by the group. Wyden is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, while Bennett serves as counsel to Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Coalition members include the CEOs of a number of healthcare-related firms, such as Blue Shield of California, Cigna HealthCare, the drugmakers Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and the medical device company Medtronic. However, the major portion of the coalition is made up of large employers in other industries who are concerned in part about providing quality healthcare to their workers at a cost that doesn't damage the bottom line. These members include high-profile firms like General Mills, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo.

GSK said in a statement that it joined the coalition in large part because it hopes the group will foster discussion of the epidemic of chronic diseases in the US and will help work toward "a system that promotes disease prevention, better management of chronic diseases, and investment in the innovations that will lead to better treatments in the future."

The coalition said it plans to be "actively engaged in policy discussions at the state and federal level" over the next few weeks. It also said it expects that the number of members will increase in the coming weeks.

16th May 2007

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