Step back: Americans want a health plan that works

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thad Cochran is a U.S. Senate veteran, often looked to for leadership by his less-experienced colleagues. Thursday, the Mississippi Republican opened the door, as he is known to do, to an objective review of health care in America and a candid look at what the federal government can do to accomplish what we expect our doctors to do — make it all better.

“The first step to improving our health care is to quit playing politics with it,” Cochran said in response to President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session Wednesday night. “I am convinced that we need to set aside the finger-pointing and end the blame game. The president proposed a number of bipartisan ideas that have been developed on both sides of the aisle. In order to reach a workable reform plan, we need to take his advice and start working together.”

Ah, the voice of reason.

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Among others in the Mississippi delegation, Sen. Roger Wicker, also a Republican, zeroed in on costs. “As I talk to Mississippians, they are very wary of thousand-page bills and huge government expenditures time after time, including last year’s bailout and the economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year,” he said. “All of this is occurring when we have an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent and a deficit of $1.6 trillion this year alone.  This is certainly not the time to take on another trillion dollar entitlement program.”

Wicker is joined by District 1 Rep. Travis Childers and District 4 Rep. Gene Taylor in the position that cost is a central factor and disqualifies any plan under active consideration. “We can achieve bipartisan health care reform, but we cannot get there using any of the proposals currently before Congress,” is how Wicker put it.

The state’s two other voting members of Congress, District 2 Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democrat, and District 3 Rep. Gregg Harper, Republican, are at ideological poles. They are staunch party partisans and are certain to vote as their respective leadership directs.

Obama is correct that the time is ripe to stop talking about what could be or should be done about government’s role in nurturing the best health system possible for Americans. As he said, this discussion dates to the days of Franklin Roosevelt.

It’s a big if, but if all of Congress will decide to take Cochran’s suggestion — shelving for a while who will get the credit or who will take the blame — a unified course of action can be devised. The public wants equitable health care that makes sense, works, doesn’t contain favoritism and limits waste. Cochran agrees with the president that such an approach is possible. We agree.