Commentary: Ten keys to health care reform debate

The health care debate is tailor-made for demagogues.

Radio and cable TV talk-show pontificators are proffering silly predictions of socialized medicine and rationed care and invoking the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Internal Revenue Service as models for what "government health care" will look like. Entertaining, but there is no basis in fact here.

ObamaCare is more of a slogan or rallying cry. The president has chosen to back certain long-term goals rather than a specific plan. This approach has strengths and weaknesses.

President Barack Obama has signaled that nearly everything is up for negotiation. His strategy certainly has a greater chance of success because he is attempting to shepherd a bottom-up process to create an organic legislative accord. Notably, President Bill Clinton’s top-down approach doomed healthcare reform in the early 1990s.

But Obama’s undue haste is counterproductive. By definition, collaboration takes more time. He knows historically the odds of reform shrink significantly in the second year of a presidential term because lawmakers become timid in a midterm election year. But induced urgency imperils his legislative goals and increases the chances for an ill-conceived plan. This is one-sixth of the U.S. economy we are talking about here.

Taxing health care benefits, creating a public insurance option, creating insurance mandates for individuals and business and striving for near-universal coverage are enormous separate issues. Attempting to resolve them collectively is daunting.

We are not backing a particular plan yet because the legislative process is too fluid. But here are 10 principles we will assert about the debate and its outcome.

To read part one (the first five principles), visit star-telegram.com.

To read part two (the second five principles), visit star-telegram.com.