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Health care reform debate dead for now

The health care reform debate may not officially be dead by now, but it's on life support, and the only humane thing to do is pull the plug.

It was a noble goal to cover the nation's uninsured and revamp the archaic system of billing and payments that currently plagues this nation, ensuring we spend by far the most of our GDP on health care, and get something that doesn't measure up. It's still a noble goal. In fact, it's imperative to the uninsured, the businesses that bear the ever-increasing premiums, and the people who pay too much out of pocket that we get something done.

But nothing is going to get done now. Nothing good, anyway.

There is no "debate" happening now. There are people on both sides, shouting slogans, spreading falsehoods, making promises, and no one has a plan to pay for it. This climate, at best, would produce an awful bill, which would do little or nothing to fix the nation's health care billing system.

Instead of ramping up the vitriol around this issue, the Congress and the president should resolve to vote on a health care reform bill six months from today -- not before and not after. That would allow a calming period where everyone gets a chance to share their ideas and concerns about any plan.

But when the two sides let their guards down and have an honest conversation about health care (if that's even possible anymore), the following should be "on the table" for discussion:

• Tort reform: the industry needs a prescribed system where medical mistakes are honestly and fairly dealt with, awarding payments to those who have suffered, but keeping malpractice suits in check. Trial lawyers will hate this, but it's necessary. Republicans have pushed the idea, but it's gone nowhere. It needs to be discussed.

• A single-payer system needs to be discussed. The one best way to control costs in our system was dismissed before discussion ever began. Why? We need not force everyone onto a system like this, but if it were an option, it could eventually gain the critical mass it needs to have the bargaining power to bring lower costs. Purchasing power made Wal-Mart great. Why won't we even discuss emulating that?

• Break down the state insurance walls and allow cooperatives. Republicans have brought this idea to the table in later days of the debate, and it's worth looking at. Much like single-payer, having people band together to create purchasing power would be ideal.

• The best health care system we could hope for would do a few things: tell the patient -- up front -- what the treatment options are, what the costs for each are, and what potential consequences of inaction would be. We'd never buy a car because the salesman told us we needed it, then wait at home weeks or months later to find out how much it's going to cost. That's insanity.

• Health care has to be portable. People who lose their jobs or switch jobs shouldn't need to worry that they'll be left exposed to gigantic medical bills. Why we tie our health care to the person who pays us to perform work is beyond me.

It's time to have a real debate -- one where all sides get to talk and present ideas. But that's not happening right now, so it's time to call a time out.

The Pioneer Journal editorial represents the opinion of the editorial board, and not necessarily the employees or management of the newspaper. Today's editorial was written by Steve Schulz, editor and publisher of the PJ.