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Promise keepers

Yesterday, House Republicans passed a bill that, if enacted, would repeal last year's health-care reform bill. It won't be enacted; it'll never get past the Senate or the president. But the GOP took the House back in part because of its promises to repeal reform, so a symbolic effort was required.

While the bill is called the "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," the Republicans were sensitive enough to change "killing" to "destroying" when discussing the bill in the wake of the Tucson shooting. Now that's some visionary leadership--or rather, was. On the House floor yesterday, various GOP members spoke about how health-care reform increases the deficit, raises taxes and cuts benefits. If anyone can make heads or tails of that formula, please let me know.

Democratic rhetoric hasn't been universally civil and serious-minded, either. But by and large, reform supporters have effectively seized the opportunity for a second chance at communicating their case to the public. This post by Suzy Khimm highlights the millions of Americans whose health-care situation has been improved by the provisions of reform already in effect, while this fact sheet from the Center on Budget addresses a number of false claims made by proponents of repeal.

Health-care reform will survive this episode of political theater; it may even benefit from it. But that won't be the end--as Jonathan Cohn argues, the real challenge may well come from the Supreme Court.

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The real challenge is real care

As the post points out, the health reform debate is indeed "political theatre." The sad truth about these theatrics is that they are focused on money (insurance) and not on care (care givers and facilities). The demand for health care is rising. The supply of health care is not keeping pace. It should come as no surprise that with a simple supply/demand analysis, the price will go up. Adding fuel to the fire, insurance has been structured to insulate patients from caring or even knowing the prices for their treatments, and government programs create incentives for insurance companies and care givers to accellerate and inflate their claims. A recipe like this inevitably leads to an uncontrolled and unsustainable upward price spiral, which is exactly what we have.

As shocking as it may sound, the real challenge has nothing to do with the Supreme Court. It has to do with delivering care. It requires us to achieve a balance of supply and demand in the delivery of health care (NOT a bigger fund for health care insurance). That can occur either through lowering the demand (which is not a good goal), or increasing the supply. I for one sincerely believe that health care professionals can be trained and health care facilities established for far less than a trillion tax dollars. It will produce results. It will deliver care. It will create jobs. It will contain prices. It will be sustainable.

If we really want to succeed in delivering health care to millions of people, let's focus on delivering care. Caring for the sick is not a political issue. It is a Christian duty.

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