11/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Peaceful Revolution: When Compromise Is a Dirty Word

Compromise is a dirty word when it means that we fail to meet basic needs ... when it means that our country's future is compromised. U.S. citizens and businesses cannot afford a compromise on health care that is politically feasible but does not both reduce health care costs and provide quality health care for all.

I am a mediator by training and inclination. I've seen that with skilled facilitation, even deeply polarized parties can focus on a shared goal and forge an agreement that meets everyone's needs. I also know that adversarial processes too often result in agreements that fail to meet crucial needs and even create new problems.

Congress must collaboratively envision a world-class health care system. We all want affordable quality health care. This is a vision that transcends partisan division. And together we face further economic disintegration if we don't achieve this vision. Congress could craft successful reform given good faith commitments to keep our collective focus on this higher goal.

The core challenge isn't the feasibility of creating quality lower cost health care. Better than two dozen countries have superior health care for their citizens than the U.S. and at a fraction of the cost. This is not rocket science. And there are examples in our own country where
citizens get excellent care and costs are low. The Mayo Clinic is famous for not only it's excellent care but also the manageable cost of that care. We can no longer ignore proven success pretending that we have nothing to learn from the success of others. We can no longer ignore proven failures, either.

Currently, our for-profit health care companies seek profit primarily by denying care -- by running from the patients in the greatest need. In fact, decades of competition have merely reinforced this fundamental dynamic. Attempts to correct this trend through regulation have been ineffective. Bottom line, private insurers are in business to make money, as are drug companies. And if you're struggling with cancer, or your child has diabetes, you'll spend whatever they ask for, even if it bankrupts you. The idea that consumers exercise choice in this kind of marketplace is a sick joke.

The core challenge is political. In Washington our elected leaders need to reject party line politics, face down the entrenched interests -- the insurance companies -- and serve the public interest.

Might our legislators consider taking a deep breath and celebrate for a moment that fundamentally we are one people with a shared dream? And then get strong.

Never losing sight of our shared destiny and needs, leaders must hear and address the real fears about how to transition to better, more affordable health care. The fear mongering that has gone on has no place in this dialog. I am ashamed of the politicians that play this game and the media that fails to call it out. Respect, honesty and real listening are the qualities that everyone must bring to this conversation.

Legislators must intelligently create the right set of incentives for health care providers and the people they serve. This requires conversations focused on known solutions, not winning partisan points.

Most Americans don't believe our Congress is willing or able to set aside partisanship. Watching the congressional performance during the Presidential address simply affirmed that belief. No wonder congressional approval is heading down to single digits. Though running for office is an adversarial process, working in Congress must be a collaborative process for our democracy to thrive. That distinction seems to have been lost and must be recovered.

We need legislators who will dare to vote contrary to corporate lobbyists or the party line because they looked at the facts and vote for us; leaders who shoulder the responsibility for crafting policies that work. Would that they could do do this with the same single-
minded intensity that has been given so often to partisan games. A compromise that satisfies political goals but does not truly fix our health care system would be a tragic failure of our national legislative leadership.

A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with, read a new post here each week.