True bipartisan effort needed on health care issue

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 14, 2009

The buzzword following President Barack Obama’s Wednesday speechto Congress on health care reform was bipartisanship.

During the debate on the hot button health care issue, a fewbipartisan lawmakers known as the Group of Six have been tryingwith little success to reach across the political aisle to come upwith a workable solution.

Meanwhile, Democratic leadership trying to throw their weightaround say they do not need Republican support to pass health carereform. That may be true, but a true commitment to a bipartisansolution will ultimately produce the desired results of expandedcare for those in need and cost containment for those asked to pickup the tab.

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Despite their being in control of the White House and bothchambers of Congress, Obama and Democratic leadership should by nowhave gotten the message that a “go it alone” effort will not work.Contentious town hall meetings during the August recess anddeclining approval ratings of the president and Democrats’ handlingof the matter bear witness to the flaws in that approach.

On the other hand simply blocking reform with a look toward the2010 mid-term elections is a shortsighted strategy that is fraughtwith long-term implications. Rather than merely poking holes in theopposition’s proposals, Republicans need to redouble their effortsto explain and promote workable alternatives.

During a Labor Day speech, President Obama asked opponents,”What are you gonna do?” on the issue of health care. Well,Republicans have answers that include medical malpractice reformand competition for insurance companies by allowing regionalcompetition across state lines to name a few, but those ideas havebeen ignored.

Republicans need to stay focused on that issue and not try tofire pre-emptive strikes on ‘red herring’ issues such as Obama’sTuesday talk to school students or even the “You lie!” outburst bySouth Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson. Such tactics riskpainting conservatives as fear mongers and lend credibility to acalm and cool Obama, which he no doubt will use to capitalize uponin his efforts to pass health care reform.

Congressman Wilson’s remark nevertheless reveals another facetof the fear and frustration felt by so many regarding the impact ofthis enormous health care reform. In addition to ensuring that theyand their loved ones have access to quality care when needed and atan acceptable personal cost, citizens want to feel confident thatprogram costs do not explode because of people who are not entitledto coverage. Obama must address that issue with concrete solutionsand not political rhetoric.

Costs are a very legitimate concern in the debate and thepresident should be more pragmatic when opponents question him whenhe says there will be “more spending cuts if the savings wepromised don’t materialize.”

When have spending cuts ever been a federal government strongsuit?

Former President Ronald Reagan once quipped, “The nearest thingto eternal life we will ever see on this earth is a governmentprogram.” And once that program is in place, government has neverbeen too good at cutting back or eliminating the need for itsservices.

Obama is correct when he said the time for bickering has passedand the “season for action” has arrived. But at the same time Obamaand liberal Democrats must honestly reach their hand outward tofind agreement if they want to do what is best of this country nowand for future generations, for what good is their plan to anyoneif it bankrupts the country?