Health reform — a house divided

Ron Bachman Contributor
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Dueling polls are worded to asked and cast favor on one side or the other of our national debate on health reform. Public opinion polls and recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts tell us that the American public does not want massive national health reform. They are worried about the current costs, future deficits and government intrusion.

In a recent Rasmussen poll, 63 percent say a better strategy to reform the health care system would be to pass smaller bills that address specific problems. Twenty-seven percent believe passing a comprehensive bill that covers all aspects of the health care system is a better idea. Other polls claim that the public likes parts of the current Democrat proposals, but not the whole.

At the White House health summit, the strategy was clear. The president and the Democrats would let the Republicans speak. They then stated and restated that the Senate and/or the House reform bills included the Republican ideas and that therefore, they were not that far apart. It was a Democrat mantra, “We agree and that is already included in our legislation.”

The real analogy is that the Democrat proposals are like a house:

  • built on a corrupt foundation. Bribes, extortion, and payoffs were required to get the votes for passage of the current bills.
  • where the plumbing does not work. According the Congressional Budget Office, the average price for individual insurance will go up by an additional 10 to 13 percent in 2016 if Congress passes the Senate health care reform legislation.
  • with faulty electric wiring. Among other accounting gimmicks, buried in the walls of the Senate bill is the “CLASS Act” is a new massive entitlement that has front-ended taxes but massive unfunded future costs and will create ballooning deficits.

Every time the Republicans said they wanted health reform with a new “kitchen” the Democrats proudly offered that their house has a “kitchen.” Every time the Republicans stated they want to build reform with a new “bathroom” the Democrats affirmed that their house already has a “bathroom.”

Americans want and need health reform. But they want more than a house of cards. They want a home that meets livable standards. They want a home that is safe from intruders and a home that protects and comforts their families.

The Democrat and ObamaCare process of legislating violated the American sense of honesty. They failed to convince the public of their sincerity to lower costs, improve access to providers, and create higher quality of medical care. You cannot start with a broken shack and build a livable home. No remodeling or new paint job will fix the underlying poor construction. It will become a money pit.

How can the country get the bipartisan reform that it is clamoring for? The Republicans should offer six ideas that they believe are most critical to improving care. The Democrats should offer six ideas from the Senate and House bills that they believe are most critical. Together they start, not with a blank sheet of paper, but with the 12 ideas that they together present to the American people.

Such a structured transparent process with specific proposals would be enthusiastically accepted by the American public as the first rational sign of adult governance by both parties. Legislation could be written within weeks and passed in short order. The president could then show he is a statesman bringing the country together and shed the growing concerns that he is a tone-deaf committed ideologue.

President Abraham Lincoln once stated, “A house divided cannot stand.” The life and health of Americans deserves better consideration than a house too broken to pass inspection by anyone but the most partisan observer. Coming together is still possible. A new cooperative team mantra might even be: “6+6=Bipartisanship.” What are the chances?

Ronald E. Bachman is president and CEO of Healthcare Visions, a thought leadership firm dedicated to advancing ideas and policy initiatives that are transforming the U.S. healthcare market.