Health Care and Reality TV

I’ll admit it. I don’t watch all that much TV. And that’s not a critique of the programming — or a statement that points to a wealth of better things to do with my time. It’s just that most nights I’m dozing well before 10 with the TV flickering and providing soothing background noise. So I’m proud to say that yesterday I watched a few hours of the best reality TV show — ever.

Well, OK, maybe that’s overstating the health care summit a little. But if you like to see how our government works — or not — it certainly provided a glimpse of the reality.

And I appreciate that Prez O scheduled the health care summit to accommodate my somewhat quirky schedule and that CNN and other networks broadcast it live for most of the day. I’m fairly cynical — and questioning — about most things these days. Maybe that’s a character trait you nurture as you approach eligibility for Medicare. So I really didn’t expect that this gathering of elected officials and others — Democrats and Republicans — would produce a consensus that would resolve the contentious debate over health care reform.

The writers of editorials in The Washington Post and New York Times this morning opine that the forum didn’t do much to change views and now it is time for the Prez and Democrats in Congress to move on. Fair enough.

And I know that many view the forum as nothing more than political theater — a way for the Prez to give the Republicans their moment in the spotlight and then move on. That may be true.

Still, as a nation I believe we are better off when important issues are discussed openly. And I was encouraged by the overall civility of the comments.

So here are some of the realities that I took away from viewing the health care summit yesterday.

  • Reforming our health care system is exceeding important and extremely complex. And at some level you have to address the issues of cost and access to care.
  • There really are big philosophical differences between the Prez, Democrats and Republicans on this and other issues.
  • We tend to discount the importance of leadership in government (and elsewhere) and how difficult it really is to make tough decisions. There really are a lot of smart, sincere and honorable people that are facing some tough choices. That was evident yesterday.
  • No easy answers here. Let’s hope they get it right.

Anyway, I thought the summit provided an insightful look into the realities of the health care debate and how our elected officials approach big issues in general.

Now, from the standpoint of TV and ratings, I’ll offer a modest suggestion.

Why not end these shows — issues forums/summits, budget debates, Congressional hearings and so on — by giving viewers the opportunity to call in and vote?

Hey, I’m told it works pretty well for American Idol.

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