EDITORIAL: Don't Let Politics Kill Health Reform
President Obama brought his health-care road show to North Carolina Wednesday, perhaps still hoping to get some kind of package voted on before the August recess.
It's not going to happen, barring a legislative miracle. And the longer things drag on, the more opportunity the president's foes have, in the words of one recent TV commentator, "to drag the carcass into the street and pick it apart."
Dr. George Bussey, one of three officials from our own FirstHealth of the Carolinas who went to Raleigh Wednesday to take in the show, came away impressed with Obama's grasp of the issues. "It was a mix of campaign rally and education session," Bussey said. "The president responded fairly directly to the questions, some that were straightforward and some that were pretty complicated."
And not a teleprompter in sight, apparently, as he gave his answers.
Status Quo Can't Continue
Even his detractors have to admit that Obama has developed a policy wonk's expertise on the subject, and he can make a convincing -- if seldom electrifying -- argument that it's not just a choice between doing something and rocking along the way things are now. The status quo, projected into the future, is a recipe for ultimate breakdown and failure.
But even many of those who recognize the need for reform remain unpersuaded that this brand of reform is the answer. And the more momentum Obama loses, the more likely it grows that the whole matter will dissolve once again into deadlock and recrimination.
As the debate lurches along, the administration faces any number of problems and obstacles, some internal and many external. Among the internal ones is a tendency on the president's part to come across as a bit too facile in emphasizing the advantages of his plan while glossing over the undeniable sacrifices involved, making some wonder if he's being straight with them.
Asked whether "the American people are going to have to give anything up in order for this to happen," Obama replied, "They're going to have to give up paying for things that don't make them healthier."
It's not that simple.
A Collateral Victim?
Controlling health costs will require making hard choices about which procedures and medications get covered. Ultimately, in other words, it may involve something we all hate: a kind of health-care rationing. But, as columnist J. Thomas Tidd recently pointed out in The Pilot, our health care has already been rationed for decades -- mainly by insurance companies.
Our medical mess is a lot like our financial one. Both took us a lot of time to get into, and both will involve heavy-duty consequences that have to be confronted and dealt with and adjusted to. And even if he were doing a perfect job of salesmanship, Obama would still face an array of powerful external forces, some political and some on the business, professional and industrial side, who have a variety of reasons for coming together in an effort to drag the reform effort down.
Among the above are partisan groups and individuals who clearly put their own selfish political goals above the nation's welfare as they gleefully speak of "going in for the kill" or turning the medical battle into Obama's "Waterloo." Hoping to see the president defeated and discredited, some of them appear perfectly happy to see meaningful health-care reform carried from the battlefield as a collateral victim.
It will be a colossal shame if we allow them to succeed.
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