Health care debate calls for sober consideration
It's been a long time since we've had a leader with the charisma and eloquence of President Obama, but there's a vast gulf between delivering a good speech and delivering on the promises he made Wednesday night.
Consumers have little to argue with in most of the president's points, such as preventing insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, canceling or diluting coverage when people get very sick or ending lifetime caps on coverage.
And partisan Republicans should find a little comfort in Obama's decision to allow Bush-era "demonstration projects" in different states aimed at limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.
But the president will have a hard time proving that he can eliminate enough "waste and fraud" in the current medical system to pay for the universal health care plan, which he estimates, probably optimistically, will cost $900 billion over 10 years. We've heard promises of cutting "waste and fraud" before, with little to show for it.
Cuts in Medicare payments are of special concerns to small rural hospitals which already struggle under current reimbursement rates.
The "public option" will also be a hard sell, but the new "trigger" proposal could help put the plan through. Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the key swing votes, has said he may support a trigger concept, which would establish a government plan only after private insurers failed to meet coverage benchmarks in designated markets.
Such a system worked with the Medicare Part D drug coverage, which saw drug companies step up to the plate enough that the "trigger" was tripped in only one isolated instance, according to Nelson's office.
Critics say the trigger concept only moves the controversial public option plan far enough into the future to give current members of Congress plausible deniability.
Living in farm country, with our long history of cooperative ventures, the idea of a nonprofit co-op offering a competitive insurance plan is more attractive to us than an outright government-run insurance plan.
What shouldn't be lost in the heated debate is the fact that most of us have good health insurance, which brings us the best medical care in the world.
Yes, the system is not perfect, health care prices have been climbing too swiftly, and we can understand why the administration wants to act quickly.
But we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. Eloquence and charisma are no substitute for sober consideration.
Let's take the time to fix what's wrong and leave the rest alone.