If the Obama administration has a strategy for passing health care reform, we certainly don't understand it.
First, the president reaches across the partisan divide to invite Republicans to a health care summit, scheduled to begin later today, and says he wants to hear ideas from all sides.
That's cool. Let's put some Republican stuff in the bill.
Then, three days before the summit, he resurrects — in nearly exact detail — the same plan that dead-ended in the U.S. Senate the month before.
Republicans, meanwhile, say they have a plan and will present it Thursday.
We hope they do, and we hope it includes something beyond tort reform and allowing health care insurance to be sold across state lines.
While those are both laudable ideas, and should be included in a final plan, experts say they will only put a small dent in what ails the U.S. health care industry.
As we've said before, there is a health care cost and access crisis, and we need look no further than the daily headlines to see it.
Anthem Blue Cross has drawn fire for announcing more than 20 percent rate increases in several states, including Maine. The requests probably reflect two things:
First, that Anthem has become accustomed to getting half to two-thirds of what it requests. In other words, its executives in California probably feel a 25 percent rate increase will be whittled down to 12-15 percent by regulators, who will then declare victory and move on.
The pattern in Maine has been much the same. In 2009, the insurer requested 18 percent and got about 11.
This year, it has requested a 23 percent increase. What do you think? End up with 12 or 13?
Second, the exhorbitant requests really do reflect that health care costs are out of control, increasing an estimated 10 percent last year alone.
And this has been happening year after year, decade upon decade.
In 1970, U.S. health care spending was $75 billion, or about $356 per U.S. resident, and was 7.2 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In 2009, we spent $2.5 trillion on health care, $8,160 per resident and it was 17.6 of GDP.
By 2018, if current trends continue, that will douple to $4.3 trillion, $13,100 per person and account for 20.3 percent of GDP. At that point, one in five dollars in our economy will go to health care.
Consider again our current 17.6 percent of GDP, then consider these numbers: Canada, 10 percent; France, 11 percent; Germany 10.6 percent; Japan 8.1 percent; United Kingdom, 8.4 percent.
Worse, research shows that these nations cover more of their people, have better overall health care outcomes and their citizens are happier with their care.
Can we afford a second-rate system that costs nearly twice as much?
Democrats may think they can ram an unpopular program through Congress. They could, but they shouldn't.
Republicans may think they can jam everything up until the next election. Again, they could, but they shouldn't.
The country needs leadership and solutions today, not posturing and bickering.