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Feb 25, 2010 7:44 am

He has become a clown.   Sad but true

Associated Press

Summit needs real debate

Political posturing isn’t enough,costs must be curbed and care improved

Sometimes, you have to choose to be an optimist. That’s the approach we’ve decided to take with today’s health care summit. Even though Democrats and Republicans both seem to be approaching this critical meeting with their minds closed, politicians have been known, on occasion, to use their heads.

In this case, optimism takes hard work … but accepting the status quo is worse. While the approaches to health care reform are clearly driven by ideology, the need for reform is not partisan. It is mathematical. The numbers no longer add up. Without reform, we are sunk.

The figures are already grimly familiar. Americans spend more for health care than any other developed nation, yet get only average results. Health care is on track to consume 20 percent of all dollars spent. Insurance premiums are rising at an intolerable rate, threatening the finances of employers who provide the benefit. Tens of millions of Americans lack access to health care, or they use hospital emergency rooms. Unless out-of-control cost increases are somehow reined in, more employers will cut health benefits and even more Americans will go uninsured.

Yet the Obama administration and Congress have mishandled this issue almost from the start. President Obama offered too little leadership while congressional Republicans have enthusiastically undermined every effort to proceed, having adopted a political strategy to oppose Obama no matter the national interest. They have offered nothing of real use in more than a year of discussion. Meanwhile, the costs of health care continue to soar, with one-year rate increases above 30 percent in some parts of the country.

Against that increasingly dire backdrop, Obama and congressional leaders are holding a health care summit today. The president challenged Republicans to come with their own ideas, yet when Obama announced his own approach earlier this week, Republicans responded that in doing so, he had killed the chance for a meaningful summit.

It may have been politically unwise for Obama to lay out already-rejected concepts as he did, given Republican intransigence on the issue. Given the clear anger of the American people, we hope he is open to compromise and that some Republicans might be, as well. The trick is for them to focus on the overriding issue, which is controlling costs. That’s a goal on which liberals, conservatives and moderates should be able to agree.

We also hope independents and political moderates of both parties will follow this issue and hold accountable anyone who fails to approach this crucial issue looking for common ground on which to proceed. It’s not sufficient for Democrats to try to ram through their version of health reform using parliamentary maneuvers any more than it is for Republicans to continue their self-absorbed gamesmanship.

With that thought in mind, we’d like to offer some unsolicited advice to the president and members of Congress as they meet today: On matters such as this, the mind is like a parachute. It works best when it is open.

Give it a try. You might land safely.