The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


October 22, 2012

Bret Baker, guest columnist: Candidates differ on how to solve nation's problems

GROVE, Okla. — I was very encouraged when candidates decided to address Medicare in this election campaign, but I’ve been disappointed by the direction of the discussion so far.

Candidates from both parties seem to be trying to use the issue as a cudgel against their opponents, rather than using this issue to clarify the very important differences and letting voters make the decision. Here is what I believe should be the message on Medicare, from both Republicans and Democrats:

“We agree that providing health care for senior citizens is an appropriate role of the federal government. We also agree that the current cost of Medicare is not sustainable in the future. We have agreed that a $712 billion reduction in Medicare costs over the next 10 years is a reasonable start in assuring the long-term sustainability of Medicare.

“We all believe that much of these targeted cost reductions can be achieved by eliminating inefficiencies (duplication, unnecessary procedures, waste and fraud). Most importantly, we also agree that if we cannot meet the cost reduction targets through elimination of inefficiencies, then we must reduce benefits to assure the long-term viability of federally funded health care for our senior citizens.”

Here is where the two sides disagree: Democrats believe that the federal government, working through existing and future review processes, is in the best position to identify and reduce the inefficiencies in health care delivery to seniors. If the targeted savings can’t be achieved by eliminating inefficiencies, then the government is most capable to make the decisions about which benefits shall no longer be federally funded.

 Republicans believe that individuals, working through a competitive health care marketplace, are in the best position to identify and reduce the inefficiencies in health care delivery to seniors. If the targeted savings can’t be achieved by eliminating inefficiencies, then individuals should make the decisions about which benefits shall no longer be federally funded.

I am not saying that one side is right or wrong on the Medicare issue, and I don’t think our political candidates and parties should be saying that either. Republicans and Democrats have different visions of how to solve the problems facing America. We need to focus on the differences in visions — not disparaging the other side for its well-founded beliefs. We need to choose the direction we want America to take by voting on Nov. 6.

Bret B. Baker lives in Grove, Okla.

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