Bipartisan health care summit? Not even close - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Bipartisan health care summit? Not even close

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Posted: Tuesday, March 2, 2010 12:33 pm | Updated: 3:44 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Dr. Eric Novack: If you had even a few minutes last week to watch President Barack Obama’s “health care summit,” you saw quite the spectacle: The president of the United States and the leaders of both political parties arguing over microphone time and getting nowhere fast on what most of us agree is one of America’s top priorities. Reforming our nation’s broken health care system.

If you had even a few minutes last week to watch President Barack Obama’s “health care summit,” you saw quite the spectacle: The president of the United States and the leaders of both political parties arguing over microphone time and getting nowhere fast on what most of us agree is one of America’s top priorities.

Reforming our nation’s broken health care system.

The Obama summit was billed as “bipartisan.” It’s a word Washington loves to throw around. Let’s be honest, though: The only thing “bipartisan” about Thursday’s summit was the fact that both parties showed up to read from their talking points.

This isn’t to say “bipartisan reform” is an impossibility; it’s possible, but only if the administration and Congress have a drastic change in approach. Reform will never come if the White House simply recycles old ideas born of backroom deals and $600 million in lobbying. Nor will reform occur if the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, use legislative trickery to subvert the lawmaking process.

The public will simply not have it. Recent poll numbers bear this out: A CNN survey this week found that an overwhelming majority of Americans, 73 percent, prefer that Congress either start from scratch (48 percent) or stop work completely on health care reform (25 percent). The best place for both parties to begin anew? With the core principles of the Health Care Freedom Act, which is working its way through legislatures and party caucuses across the country.

The Act, conceived in 2006 as an Arizona citizens’ initiative, has at last count gained traction in 37 states. Its language proclaims both the need and some basic rules for reform. The Act protects two basic rights: One, the right of people to spend their own money to obtain lawful health care services. And two, the right of people to choose to not participate in any health care system or plan without fear of penalty.

As an orthopedic surgeon with 23 years’ experience as a caregiver, I know that nothing is more personal than health. Control over such critical decision-making belongs in the hands of patients and families. While everyone recognizes that resources are not infinite, the battle for who, or which entity, ought to control the allocation of $2.5 trillion in annual health care spending stands at the very heart of the health care reform fight.

The Health Care Freedom Act not only gives patients a voice in the reform process, it places health care freedoms firmly in the hands of people, not government or corporate interests. And it’s reform that both parties can support.

In Virginia, where a statutory version of the act awaits Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature, legislative support came from both sides of the aisle. The same is true of a broader version of the act moving through the Virginia Senate.

In the Tennessee House? Same story. The Health Care Freedom Act passed 26 to 1, with seven Democrats voting “yeah.” In Utah’s House, too, the bill drew votes from both parties. Slowly but surely in other states, the act is moving ahead, giving members of both parties and independents the opportunity to vote in favor of placing patients at the center of reform, not well-heeled lobbyists and government elites.

We can only hope the administration is watching, and that President Obama sees this movement for what it is — the American public’s desire for “change we can believe in.” True health care reform will require more than politicking. It demands our leaders put people and principle above power and partisanship. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic of health reform, while firmly placing Americans behind the locked gates in steerage, is not a vision that members of either party, or the American people, will support.

Dr. Eric Novack, a Phoenix orthopedic surgeon, is chairman of Arizonans for Health Care Freedom. To learn more or to contact Dr. Novack, go to azhealthcarefreedom.com.

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