Commentary: Ignore the vitriol in health care reform debate

August 17, 2009 

What's happened to the debate over health care reform? Why are some people so angry? Do they actually believe that health care reform will include "death panels" to refuse care to the elderly and disabled? Do people who rail against "socialized" medicine realize that we already have government-run programs, most notably in the form of Medicare? How many seniors — despite the problems we have in Alaska — want to give up Medicare because it's "socialist"? Are people really happy with the status quo: the escalating costs and a system that rations care depending on the quality of the coverage you, or your employer, can afford, the fine print in your policy and the availability of doctors and nurses?

Do most Americans want our health care system to stay just like it is?

That's hard to believe.

Demonstrations are as American as apple pie -- and, provided they're peaceable, protected by the Constitution. Long may it be so. But let's recognize that it's always easier to attack the other guy's ideas than to come up with better ones yourself. While shouting confrontations feed the insatiable news beast and make dramatic YouTube fare, they're also a distraction from the hard work of actually conceiving ways to deliver better health care to more Americans.

We're not Europe, or anywhere else. What we want is a health care system that gives us coverage for all, while controlling costs and preserving freedom of choice.

The challenge is to balance those three elements, make health care available to everyone, figure out how to pay for it and do so in a sustainable, fair manner.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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