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THEIR OPINION: Strategic health care reform

The health care that most Americans count on provides high-quality medical care, but its costs continue to rise faster than wages, creating issues for families and the national economy. Further, millions of Americans are uninsured, and the health...

The health care that most Americans count on provides high-quality medical care, but its costs continue to rise faster than wages, creating issues for families and the national economy. Further, millions of Americans are uninsured, and the health care that these people receive puts a burden on many hardworking citizens.

Reform is in order. But it should be more strategic than most of the proposals being considered by Congress. Reform should fix specific problems rather than be a top-to-bottom overhaul without consideration for what works and what doesn't.

A group of six U.S. senators, three Republicans and three Democrats including North Dakota's Kent Conrad, are crafting a reform package that they hope will get 60 votes in the Senate and pass muster in the U.S. House -- a centrist package.

The Tribune thinks that a doable health care reform package should do the following:

- Real, accountable cost control must be established.

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- Maintain the existing private health insurance for the 70 percent of Americans who can afford it.

- Over a period of years, bring more of the remaining 30 percent of Americans without health insurance into the system. Subsidies might be the answer, but subsidies should not go to families with incomes of $80,000 -- that's too high. If a family with an income of $80,000 needs federal help to buy health insurance, then costs haven't been brought under control.

- What's done to bring the 30 percent of the U.S. population into the numbers of insured should not undermine the coverage for the 70 percent with health insurance.

- Do not extend benefits to people living in the country illegally.

- Be realistic about costs and up-front about where the money will come from to pay them. Congress should keep in mind the incredible financial strain the nation has been living under for the past couple of years, as well as the huge expenditures for bailouts and the stimulus.

- Americans do want health care reform, but they do not want socialized medicine. They want the system that they have to work better.

Health care isn't broke like the mortgage markets were broke or those flaky derivatives markets that crashed. We have high-quality health care. It needs to be better in terms of cost and access, but it isn't about to collapse. It can be fixed without going down the nightmarish road the nation faced as Wall Street melted down and Congress approved massive spending to "save" banks and financial houses, car manufacturers and mortgage giants.

Health care reform must be done right and we need to take the time to do just that.

Related Topics: BISMARCKHEALTHCARE
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