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Opinion | Kathleen Sebelius asks a growing number of skeptical Americans not to sweat the details of healthcare reform

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote an op-ed column for The Washington Post on Tuesday in defense of the Obama administration's efforts to "reform" healthcare. She wrote: "President Obama and I are working closely with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate and healthcare experts to make sure we get the details of health reform right. But we can't let the details distract us from the huge benefits that reform will bring."

So, the objective is all that matters, not the process by which we get there? The most important words on a contract may be in the small print. Secretary Sebelius tells us not to worry about such things, but trust your government leaders and anonymous "experts" and leave the rest to us. A growing number of Americans are saying "no thanks."

The details matter because they are about government deciding who gets treatment when they are sick and who does not, who lives and who dies. Are there any details more important than that? Why would anyone trust government with their health and life when there are so many things government already does poorly and inefficiently?

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Sebelius and members of Congress are fanning out across the country, trying to defend a healthcare reform plan that is only partially written, unexplainable and still unread by many representatives and senators. In a joint appearance with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, Sebelius responded to shouts and catcalls from a skeptical audience at the Constitution Center in heavily Democratic Philadelphia. She said Specter shouldn't be criticized because the Senate's version of the bill has not yet been written. This takes hubris to a new level. It is one thing for a member of Congress to vote on legislation he hasn't read; it is quite another for government officials to ask for support of a bill that has not been written, at least in the Senate.

The attitude of the administration and supporters of its healthcare plan seems to be: "Take your medicine, and if you don't like it, or question its effectiveness, you will be sent to your room as punishment because we know better than you, even though 86 percent of you are perfectly happy with the healthcare you have now. Who are you to question us and our 'experts'?"

The more the public learns what is in the House bill, the less they like it. That's why the administration wants to rush this through Congress. The public mostly understands the need to reform the increasingly expensive current system. It just doesn't like the administration's plan.

There are other proposals that would achieve the end of reform while preserving the high-quality treatment that is the envy of the world and simultaneously affirming deeply held American values. It is no mystery what needs to be done to reduce costs and improve health delivery services.

As Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients' Rights, has noted, "Americans want lower healthcare costs, not a government-run system. And there are several reforms we can do immediately to lower costs that won't cost a dime, [such as] allowing insurers to compete across state lines, requiring doctors and hospitals to post their rates and results to allow consumers to shop around, and creating one standardized reimbursement form for all insurers." Allowing employees to choose among several insurance policies (a choice available to federal workers, including Congress) would let individuals tailor policies to their needs, instead of forcing them to accept a one-size-fits-all policy. That, too, would reduce costs.

A grassroots uprising defeated the Bush administration's ill-conceived attempts at "comprehensive immigration reform." The groundswell against nationalized healthcare may have a similar end. If the liberal Democratic congressional leadership forces a bill through anyway, Republicans may have the issue they have been looking for to help them take back at least the House of Representatives in the 2010 election and to stop this "risky scheme" and other "out of the mainstream" programs.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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