THE BLOG

Health Care Reform -- Is It Deja Vu All Over Again?

01/19/2011 12:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A year ago, I wrote about the need for health care reform from a lovely and inviting place minutes from the Pacific Ocean in the northwest corner of Costa Rica, called Recreo. A year has passed, I am again back at Recreo and I am still writing about health care, only instead of writing to reform it, I am writing to keep it from being repealed. Sort of like what Yoggi Berra said, "deja vu all over again".

But what has changed over the year is what took place in Tucson. Sure, no one will ever prove a cause and effect relationship between the shootings there and the angst and vitriol that occurred in town hall meetings that debated the need for health care reform. But logic would suggest that if there is enough hatred seen or heard in speech and use of imagery suggestive of violence or violent behavior, it is only a matter of time when violent acts will take place. Tucson turned out to be the boiling point for all this.

But for the events there, the new House majority would have already repealed what Obama signed into law last March. With a week off out of respect for those who died and were injured, the House takes up that effort within days. But what needs to change is how the debate over health care should proceed. How about with civility in discourse and advocacy using facts, and not made-up stories, innuendo, and misrepresentations. Here's what I mean.

We are told that the new health care law will cost millions. The independent Congressional Budget Office tells us over a billion will be saved over the next decade. We are told that the new law creates "death panels". Having read the bill, as others with knowledge have done as well, no such language or even suggestion of it exists. Moreover, the new law eliminates pre-existing conditions as a basis to deny health care insurance coverage, provides for offspring to age 26 to stay on their parent's' coverage, gives seniors on Medicare a break in paying for expensive prescription drugs, and provides coverage to millions more Americans than before reform became law. Those who want reform to go away say government intervenes in our lives too much. Is that why those who have Medicare or our servicewomen and men with VA coverage vociferously object to any politician wanting to take away any of their health benefits?

We're told that the private insurance market is better at getting us to access and afford health care coverage. Is that why private insurers spent $millions to defeat a public option as part of reform that would have provided us with needed competition to keep costs down? Is that why insurers want to keep in place the exclusion from the antitrust laws they have enjoyed for over 50 years? Is that why we see, for example, a proposed 59% increase in premium costs by a major insurer in California, effective March 1. And is this why insurers balk at having to spend starting this year 80-85% of premium dollars on health care (known as the Medical Loss Ratio)?

In the end, if civility is to prevail in advancing thought in the political arena, and it surely must, then there must be a foundation upon which such rhetoric is based. Unfortunately, what the House plans to do is only for show since we know the Senate won't vote out health care and there is always the President's veto pen. Consequently, why do it? If the House really wants to see health care be a right for all (as it should), the health reform law should be modified or amended where needed; House Republicans shouldn't "throw out the baby with the bathwater" by repealing the entire legislation. The health law is not perfect; a bill of its magnitude never is. It thus takes a journey without an ending to make a major piece of federal legislation like the health reform act more meaningful for all Americans.

Hopefully, if the House uses facts, it should not repeal the health care reform law. Then, and only then, will I then be comforted in not being reminded of, deja vu all over again.