Opinion

Commentary: Summit underlined need for health care reform

Who knew that Democrats and Republicans could engage in a civil discussion with each other over a hot-button issue -- for six hours, no less -- without turning it into a verbal brawl?

Some grandstanding aside, both parties at Thursday's health care summit managed to mind their manners and calmly lay out their differing positions on how best to reform the way Americans get -- or don't get -- medical care.

This display of civility may turn out to be the most useful aspect of a meeting called by President Obama to see if the two sides can agree on reform.

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be No.

"There are some fundamental differences between us here that we cannot paper over," said one of the leading Republicans, Sen. John Kyl of Arizona.

That's why they belong to political parties with distinctly different views. But the summit also served to underline the gravity of the problems afflicting health care and why it is urgent to break the gridlock that has stymied reform.

One of the critical differences involves government intervention in the insurance market. In theory, the market should be able to set rates and standards, with state governments keeping them in line. That's the GOP preference, with some regulatory tightening here and there.

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