A chronic disease is not cured overnight, and so Congress should not try to reform health care before its recess in August. President Barack Obama has backed off his insistence on an immediate vote on health-care reform. He has also shown willingness to include more provisions for cost reductions. Such concerns are at least as important — if not more so — than the festering problem of the millions of people without health insurance in this country.

A chronic disease is not cured overnight, and so Congress should not try to reform health care before its recess in August.

President Barack Obama has backed off his insistence on an immediate vote on health-care reform. He has also shown willingness to include more provisions for cost reductions. Such concerns are at least as important — if not more so — than the festering problem of the millions of people without health insurance in this country.

Republicans have focused on Obama’s declining approval ratings. What they haven’t noticed is the shift in national consciousness.

Americans didn’t think about losing their health insurance when the economy was good. Now their unemployed neighbor, spouse or coworker has shown them how close anyone is to being uninsured and possibly bankrupted by serious illness. Suddenly, the situation has become more urgent.

So you have to wonder what South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint was thinking when he said last week, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

Funny that Republicans recall Waterloo. Where do they think they will be when citizens storm the Bastille, angry about Washington’s paralysis on health care?

Still, the Congressional Budget Office issued a needed alarm last week when it said none of the health-care reform plans would slow down the acceleration of cost — and might end up making the problem worse. “We do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount,” Douglas Elmendorf, CBO director, told the Senate Budget Committee.

Reducing the trajectory is urgent. Health-care spending has grown at many times the rate of inflation in the last decade. Year after year, families see health care take a bigger and bigger bite of their paychecks while their wages have remained stagnant. The system is unsupportable.

We find it ironic that people say they don’t want “socialized medicine.” What do they think Medicare is, if not a government-subsidized promise that older people will have access to the care they need?

Medicare needs help as well. Any health-care reform must use Medicare as a laboratory for controlling costs and demanding quality.

Our health-care system puts too much reward in ordering tests and procedures and not enough reward in lowering costs, achieving results and gaining efficiencies. Doctors and hospitals that deliver poor care at high cost should have their reimbursement rates cut while those that focus on managing chronic diseases, avoiding costly hospitalizations and cutting waste should get more money.

There needs to be work done, too, on the way we pay for all this reform. Taxing employer-provided health benefits is wrong on so many levels. Government shouldn’t punish the businesses doing the right thing.

The Mayo Clinic — renowned for its health-care quality — is among the organizations unhappy with Washington’s cluelessness. “Unless legislators create payment systems that pay for good patient results at reasonable costs, the promise of transformation in American health care will wither,” the clinic said.

The president says the nation has studied health-care fixes to death and we have the answers. It’s time for action.

We compare it with the strategy doctors use to fight cancer. They may know the science of a cure, but they don’t make snap decisions on treatment. The options are many — and being too aggressive can make patients worse, not better. It might kill them.

Reforming health care is too important to run the gurney down the hallway, rushing the patient into surgery. Let’s do it right, not fast.

Rockford Register Star