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A rational approach to reform

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Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:29 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Healthcare reform should be based on expert recommendations, not special interest opinions.

The contentiousness of the current healthcare reform debate is shameful. In newspaper columns, letters to the editor, on talk radio, network and cable TV broadcasts, opposing camps continually rant against each other. Ugly shouting matches, offensive sound bites, ludicrous catch phrases and the propagation of misinformation (read: "death panels") are replacing intelligent discussions and becoming impediments to finding a sound solution to this complex issue facing us. As each side digs in its heels, the vitriol and hostility increase between our fellow citizens. This disjointed approach to problem solving is unproductive and only inflaming passions. It does not reflect well on our national character.

We need to stop the yelling, take a deep breath and find a more purposeful approach to getting a viable reform package.

My suggestion is to stop the town hall meetings and the incessant, repetitive and nasty talk radio and cable TV broadcast tirades.

The solution to the monumental and complicated undertaking of healthcare reform will not be solved by self-serving politicians, "grumpy old men" and ratings-driven talk show personalities.

We all have opinions about how we want healthcare reformed. But we must acknowledge that the actual "reforming" requires technical expertise so it is workable, financially feasible and ethically fair. Let us therefore leave these solutions to competent professionals who have the appropriate training and expertise in healthcare delivery, economics and medical ethics.

Each camp should choose highly qualified individuals, known for their independence, honesty and integrity − who were not involved with the initial drafts of the bills − to be the first to evaluate the bills currently on the table. Special interest groups such as U.S. citizens, doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and for-profit insurance companies, at this point, should wait in the wings.

I would suggest to this gathering that the first matter on their agenda should be agreement on:

1) What healthcare reforms are needed? (read: costs, waste, fraud, accessibility, payers / insurers etc.)

2) Under what social philosophy will healthcare reform be based? (read: Is healthcare a right or a privilege? What role should government play? Should there be: uniformity of delivery?, rationing?, "end-of-life" consultations? etc.)

Under the direction of a mutually agreed upon leader, and with no time pressure, these experts along with those who formulated the current proposals should discuss, debate, and resolve differences to ultimately offer a compromise bill that, yes, will not please everyone. But it will have been the product of thoughtful, respectful and informed deliberations.

Special interest groups, at this point, would now be given an opportunity to review this draft and offer their opinions. They would each need, however, to confront potential ethical dilemmas. Suppose the reform package, offered by experts as being in our nation's best interest, is not in their personal or their company's best interest? Would they still support the bill?

Healthcare reform will unlikely be a "one-size-fits-all" solution. In the search for that solution, however, we can do much better than we are doing now.

I suggest a rational approach to healthcare reform that gives priority to expert recommendations over special interest opinions.

Dr. Shapiro is a podiatrist/foot surgeon in Oro Valley.

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