When I was a teenager, we loved to play baseball, and in my neighborhood there were two teams. Both of them were quite good, but they were bitter rivals. It was not uncommon for fights to break out when they played each other.
On one very memorable day, a very boastful team from another neighborhood challenged our neighborhood to a game. Their team was quite formidable by reputation, and neither of our teams would likely have been able to beat them. We decided to put aside our differences and use our strongest players to form one neighborhood team to take up the challenge. It was one of the most memorable games in my life, and we absolutely slaughtered the competition. That was the beginning of many lasting friendships and the end of an unproductive rivalry.
The reason for the great success of our new neighborhood team was a recognition that we were much stronger when we combined our forces and stopped fighting each other. Is there a lesson to be learned here by those individuals who represent all Americans in both houses of Congress, the executive branch and the Supreme Court?
The 14th verse in the 11th chapter of the book of Proverbs states that there is safety in the multitude of counselors. This means that you are much more likely to be successful if you're willing to listen to an array of opinions regarding an important decision. The health and well-being of all American citizens is an extraordinarily important issue, and now that the health plan that was put forth by only one party has been shown to be fatally flawed, it may be a very good time to put aside our differences and combine our strengths to accomplish a very worthwhile goal.
There is no question that we need health care reform, but there is a major question about whether it should be something that is imposed upon the people by a government that thinks it knows what is best for everyone, or whether it would be better to create a system that preserves the freedom of choice and liberty of all Americans?
Usually when a complex issue is tackled, it is wise to define the basic goals of everyone involved. I think it would be wise for a health care reform plan to include the following:
• Basic medical and surgical coverage for every single American.
• Responsibility for health care remaining in the hands of the patient and the caregiver without interference from the government or some third party.
• Absolute freedom to choose the type of insurance plan that fits the personal needs of each individual and family.
• A mechanism to take care of catastrophic health issues and chronic debilitating conditions.
• A mechanism (which most countries have) to provide for individuals who sustain injuries from medical treatments that does not require complex and expensive legal involvement.
• A way to pay for all of it in a manner that involves everyone on a proportional basis.
I am aware of several plans that have been offered and can provide an excellent basis to begin discussing something that works for everyone. Let's stop saying there is only one way and that no one else has a plan. Such remarks are false and counterproductive.
We must have open minds as we look at alternatives and recognize that we as Americans can be extremely creative and have a long history of producing spectacular answers for complex problems. If we relinquish pride and party affiliation and proceed openly while welcoming public scrutiny, we can get this done quickly. In the interim, we must provide a bridge of insurance for those individuals and families who lost the coverage they had as a result of Obamacare. The law was a costly mistake, but at least it started us on the road to much-needed health care reform, and its authors should be proud of that fact.
As we solve this problem, and I know we will, let us remember that many of the people who preceded us in this nation gave everything they had, including their lives, in order that we might be free. Many of their ancestors came here from other parts of the world in order to escape societies that told them what they could say and what they could not say, where they could live, what they could do for a living, how much money they could make, what they had to buy, as well as a variety of other controls.
Whether we are Democrats, Republicans or independents, we must not forget that we cannot simply impose our will on our fellow citizens, no matter how noble we believe our cause to be. That is always the initial, tainted seed for the establishment of a totalitarian government. Let us learn from this experience and move on in a united fashion to solve this and the many other problems that face our nation.
Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.