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Tribune Editorial: An honest exchange needed in health debate

"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass."

-- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Rep. Bachmann represents one of the extremes -- to be polite -- when it comes to the health care debate. And this comment she made recently shows how extreme extremists on the issue have become.

While becoming blood brothers is more likely to spread blood-borne diseases than misinformation, there's plenty of misinformation being spread by both health care reform advocates and opponents.

Bachmann, for example, claimed the House of Representative's proposed health care bill would cover illegal aliens. The bill clearly states that they would not be covered.

Some reform supporters, on the other hand, have tried to blame insurance companies for the all the ills of the current health care situation.

While many legitimate complaints can be made about their role, there are plenty of reasons for the situation, including how we live, eat and deal with medical issues in our lives. And insurance companies have offered to take some hits -- financial and procedural -- to help improve the situation.

Others claim that tort reform would go a long way toward fixing our medical woes. The argument goes something like this: If we could just end those frivolous lawsuits and reel in the amounts courts award people who prove they were the victims of medical malpractice, it would drastically reduce health care costs.

It difficult to get inside doctors' heads and find out how many tests and procedures they do in order to defend themselves from lawsuits, but the costs of malpractice insurance and court cases can be measured. The highest figure studies have come up with is 3 percent.

Fixing that would help, but it's far from the whole solution.

Then there are the death panels.

Consultations with Medicare patients about the specifics of end-of-life treatment -- what the House bill actually calls for -- does not a death panel make.

But becoming blood brothers won't help opponents of reform either.

Something has to be done to guarantee those who are insured stay that way, to get as many people who are uninsured some kind of coverage and to slow the rising costs of the current system.

Slitting wrists and exaggeration won't do it.

Honestly and calmly exchanging information and points of view will.