At the end of last Thursday's seven-hour summit on health care reform, President Obama declared that the time for debate has come to an end. He indicated that if meaningful GOP cooperation does not materialize he is ready to proceed without bipartisan support and risk the political consequences.
Republicans say they share Democrats' assessment that the health-care system is broken, but they question the fundamental elements of the approach, including whether it is appropriate for the government to set standards for coverage or require individuals to buy insurance.
Republicans also criticized Democrats for attempting to levy new fees and taxes on businesses to pay for their legislation. Democrats countered that health-care problems, whether related to rising costs or barriers to coverage, have grown so egregious that government has no choice but to intervene.
The two parties did find accord in several limited realms. People should be allowed to buy insurance across state lines, although Democrats want to set minimum standards that policies in all states would have to meet. They agreed that forming pools for uninsured people is a good way to lower premium costs. And they conceded that unless costs are contained, Medicare will be bankrupted and employers will stop offering coverage.