Now the country is finally beginning to address health care reform in a meaningful way, in what could well be the most important domestic policy debate since the New Deal.
Key elements in this debate are competition, costs-and courage.
Competition. A huge point of contention is defining what additional role, if any, government should play in health care. As we see, this argument quickly descends from policy to ideology, which is why it is so difficult.
Many Americans favor a "single-payer" national health care system run by the Federal government-a huge shift from the current system managed by private insurance companies whose primary goal is to turn a profit. Statistics show that the single-payer systems used by most other industrialized countries are more equitable and efficient than the hodge-podge we now have here.
But single-payer is not on the table in 2009, shelved by strategists in the White House and in Congress who fear the power of the health insurance lobbies to scuttle any reforms that contain it. Single-payer could put health insurance companies out of business and they will fight to keep that from happening.
There's a compromise afloat-the so-called "government option" in which a government-run health care plan would be just one option for consumers, competing with private plans to enroll members. The plan or plans that worked best for lowest costs would gain customers, forcing others to either improve or leave the market. Sounds like classic capitalism, right?