EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 20, 2009

Both sides agree that a major overhaul is needed

Can't health care reform be simpler?

Isn't there a way to cover the uninsured and control costs without a massive rewrite of health care by the federal government?

The short answer from those on both sides of the yawning divide over President Barack Obama's vision of reform is the same: No.

But, the longer answer is that it depends on the definition of "massive."

The various bills in Congress that reflect the president's priorities are, by any definition, massive. The one that has drawn the most attention so far, H.R. 3200, is more than 1,000 pages long.

But while proposals from the conservative side are simpler, they also call for a major overhaul of the existing system.

Indeed, one of Republicans' biggest complaints about the president is that he continues to accuse them of wanting to leave the system as it is.

In a speech several weeks prior to his recent appearance before a joint session of Congress, the president said, "We have never been this close. ... And because we're so close to real reform, suddenly the special interests are doing what they always do, which is just try to scare the heck out of people.

"I've got a question for all those folks: What are you going to do? What's your answer? What's your solution? And you know what? They don't have one. Their answer is to do nothing."

Actually, those were three questions posed by the president. But "all those folks" beg to differ. They agree with Obama that reform of the nation's health care system is desperately needed. They agree that it is too expensive. They agree that insurance needs to be portable — not tied to one's job. They agree that people should not lose their coverage just because they got sick.

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