Ruckus robs focus from core issues

Democratic leaders in Congress want Republican Rep. Joe Wilson to apologize on the floor of the House for shouting “you lie!” at President Barack Obama when he said his health care plan would not give low cost coverage to illegal immigrants. If he does not, they say, they will pass a resolution condemning his bad manners.
What a time-wasting diversion from the task at hand that would be.
Wilson did apologize. The president accepted his apology. More than that, Obama offered this wise assessment on the state of the national conversation at this point:
“I think we’re debating something that has al-ways been a source of controversy, and that’s not just health care, but also the structure and the size and the role of government. That’s something that basically defines the left and the right in this country. And so, extremes on both sides get very agitated about that issue.”

THOSE WHO have the most basic understanding of the way health care in the United States is delivered and paid for understand that it is a patchwork that has grown like Topsy; that it is not a single system that can be “reformed.” As the president implied, there are those, mostly Democrats, who want government to step in, organize the industry, give it structure, create a U.S. health care system that covers everyone.
Those who oppose this approach, mostly Republicans, want to tweak the way things are and depend on the private sector to make whatever improvements are needed, with the profit motive as the engine. They oppose further government involvement. Few of those who favor the private enterprise approach claim it can provide universal health care coverage. Indeed, our history demonstrates it can not.
Because these two positions are so diametrically opposed, partisans like Rep. Wilson choose to focus on side issues like giving health care to illegal immigrants, which rally partisans but have little to do with delivering health care to the other 300 million in the country who are citizens.
It is true that language in the House health care bill denies health care to illegals. It is also true, as Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota observed, that those words don’t mean much unless they are backed up by strong enforcement measures. Without policing, sick and injured illegals will continue to get health care in emergency rooms just as they always have. That’s the way it is in America — and will be as long as church doors stay open.
But all of this is a sideshow that doesn’t take the country a step closer to reducing health care costs or reducing the number of uninsured.
President Obama doesn’t take the bait. Neither should those who support him. Hot-button nonessentials energize the placard carriers and make fodder for town hall shouting matches while they turn the na-tion’s attention away from the building health care crisis that threatens to bankrupt the country.
What Mr. Wilson and his colleagues on both sides of the aisle should be talking about is the enormous burden that health care costs now impose on the federal budget; that those costs are rising at twice the rate of inflation; that the U.S. spends about twice as much per capita than other rich nations do on health care without getting better outcomes and move from there to agreement that the present course is unsustainable.
From that platform of facts, the conversation should address ways to make things better.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.