By Alice Faryna, MD

Despite the acrimonious debate, there is actually consensus on both sides of the political aisle -- our current health care system is seriously flawed, dysfunctional and requires major change.

As Congress prepares for a final reconciliation, we are bombarded with messages containing language designed to either persuade or frighten us.

In a country as diverse as ours, we need to find common ground for deeply held beliefs and values. Values held by most Americans are quality, affordable, choice and American. Surveys consistently find that over two thirds of Americans favor health care access for all Americans, even if it means a major government role. The words government health care had a negative response, yet the same people wanted a choice of private and public plans.

Recent messages from politicians say they favor a uniquely American solution. Unfortunately, we already have a unique system. Our system costs twice as much as those of most other wealthy nations and fails to cover almost 50 million of us. Since World War II, our health system has relied on employer-based coverage purchased from private for-profit health insurers.

Our uniquely American employer-based private health insurance solution is unraveling. Any employer-based system is particularly vulnerable to economic downturns. Since the current recession began, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs and therefore their coverage. Even before the recession, the percentage of employers offering health benefits was falling. Only the expansion of public insurance like Medicaid and SCHIP prevented an even worse epidemic of lost coverage.

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