Editorial: Take first steps toward reforming health-care system

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

President Barack Obama has laid out an ambitious agenda, including a complete reform of the nation’s health-care system. He has set aside $634 billion in his budget as a “down payment” on a reform package he hopes Congress will draft and enact this year.

However, there is a significant obstacle to overcome — a rising national debt.

Health-care reform has been discussed for years, but with little success achieved. It is a massive and costly undertaking requiring cooperation from a wide range of groups that make up our health-care system.

Clearly, the system needs reform and costs need to be reduced. But we cannot afford to further mortgage our future in the process. A complete make over is an ambitious goal, and one not likely to achieve the wide-reaching changes that many would hope to see. But surely, the first steps in this long overdue process can be achieved.

During his visit to The William W. Backus Hospital this week, U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., said the opportunity to finally make strides in reforming our health-care system has never been brighter than it is today. There is a concerted effort on the part of every stakeholder in the system to bring about reform, and an apparent willingness by many to sacrifice previously held hard-line positions that thwarted past attempts.

But Lieberman also cautioned that implementing reforms should be done prudently, starting with the least expensive and most cost-efficient measures first, and more comprehensive reforms phased in last and tied directly to the nation’s economic recovery efforts.

We agree. Any effort to implement wide-ranging, sweeping reforms all at once amid an economic recession, or a weakened economy emerging from recession, could hamper efforts for meaningful reform in the long term, and potentially stall the economic recovery.

Health care is a critical component of our economy, providing not only the vital health services we need but also jobs, directly in the health-care field and small businesses that create the majority of new jobs but struggle to survive because of ever-increasing health-care costs.

Health-care reform as part of the economic recovery is the prudent approach.

Norwich Bulletin