How to Make Health Care Repeal More Than Symbolic

The House vote to cancel President Obama's health care reforms could have real value if it triggers an honest discussion about how to do health care right.

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We have seen stranger things happen, so why not now?

Why couldn't we see real reform for change -- change that we can all believe in -- when it comes to health care reform? Why can't this week's vote be the primer for bipartisan discussions and action?

For those who thought this issue was resolved in March 2010 with the controversial passage of "Obamacare" and the Tea Party protests that highlighted the weekend vote in Washington, the House of Representatives' vote to repeal the historic health care reform package this week served as the first volley in 2011 of the ongoing battle to get a permanent solution for America's health care system -- one that pushes back against the Democrat-led legislation of just a year ago.

In this political environment, is a health care two-step -- one that will bring about something better than what we got from 2010's historic bill -- really viable?

The prevailing opinion in much of the media and political banter has been that the House vote was a symbolic move more than anything else. However, examples from last month's bipartisan legislative accomplishments indicate that this vote to repeal and replace may provide a few opportunities to take a different -- and better -- approach to health care reform.

As we saw last month, the willingness to compromise with the other side of the aisle has opened the door to solutions that the majority of Congress can agree on -- and across political lines. The unpopular tax compromise, met with the disgust of many on the left, led to the passage of two bills that affected the domestic and international landscape.

Similarly, this week's vote has the potential to lead to real dialogue among the major players from both parties as well as with the president to bring about affordable, efficient health care reform in a manner unlike the self-absorbed, Democrat-dominated process led by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Over the past two years, many of the Republican proposals for reform were stymied in the political process, leaving little room to leverage competitive ideas for the best legislation possible.

Now the House leadership has the opportunity to bring alternatives that make sense for both philosophical perspectives in America, while bringing solutions that work to the table. Ideas such as insurance portability across states -- an oft-forgotten item promoted by President Obama -- may now have a chance to be appropriately incorporated into health care reform.

At the very least, those in Congress who benefited from the Tea Party movement's opposition to the 2010 health care bill now have a legitimate opportunity to share their alternative plans. That is a challenge that we should not overlook. The accountability that the Republicans asked for during the 111th Congress should be pressed on them as leaders in the 112th Congress, particularly since their recent votes indicate that they should draft a counter-solution that will get its day in the sun. The vote for health care repeal now forces Republicans to move very quickly from the role of powerless protesters to crafty politicians, requiring them to display both the willingness and the ability to work with the Democrats so that repeal and replace is not portrayed as a personal affront to President Obama.

If the Senate takes its cue from the House that another bite at the health care reform apple is needed, and if members of Congress can find a way to work together for a bipartisan solution, the nation will find itself with more confidence in and support for necessary reform.

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