Note: This is the first in a series of three essays about Health Care reform in the United States. Tomorrow I will discuss the connection between race and health care. The final essay will focus on the role individuals can play in the health care debate.

I love a good debate. Resolving differences through questioning, challenging, discussing, listening, and pondering allows the possibility of consensus and, sometimes, a better result than either side would have achieved alone. We can achieve a better result with health care reform in the United States than some people–or what’s being reported in the media–would lead us to believe.

I follow national politics regularly. I’m as frustrated as the next person when “politics” gets in the way of achieving good “policy” that will serve the people well. I’m frustrated when policies are adopted that don’t serve “we the people” well. I’m particularly frustrated when it appears that elected officials are taking the side of the lobby that has donated the most money to their campaign coffers. I consider myself politically moderate. I’ve voted for Republicans (George W. Bush in 2000) and Democrats (Barack Obama in 2008) for President. I served my community as an elected city counselor for four years when I was a registered Democrat and as county commissioner for seven years while registered Republican. I’ve been in the political trenches, as they say, and spent a fair amount of time in Oregon, and in Washington, D.C., working on issues I felt were important for my community, my state, and our nation.

Democrats are often described as the party of “big government/big taxes” and Republicans as the party of “small government/small taxes.” History would show that neither description is accurate over time. Leaving partisanship aside, I don’t believe that government can, or should, take care of all the needs of American citizens. I also don’t believe that reduction in government programs is always the best solution.

What I do believe is that it is insane that almost 50 million people live without access to health care in the richest nation in the history of the world. It is insane when the profits of insurance and drug companies take precedence over the health of people. Does it bother anyone else that every 3rd commercial on TV is for a drug I can’t spell or pronounce, that is only available by prescription, and the warning of side effects take up most of the commercial? Who are these commercials directed toward? What impact does advertising expenses have on the cost of health care?

The moral compass of our nation can accurately be judged according to how we treat all our citizens, not just the well-off. Novelist Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Sadly, this is a far-too-accurate description of many Americans–and our government–during the 80’s and 90’s.

I’ve listened to some proclaim that it would be insane to adopt one of the universal health care models as practiced in Canada, Great Britain, or virtually every other “first world” nation on earth. Yet the brutal truth about the failure of America’s health care system can be seen in the thousands of citizens lined up overnight at the Los Angeles Forum two weeks ago. Not for a sporting event or a rock concert, they were there for a chance at free health care services that were being offered for 8 days–services they couldn’t otherwise obtain, services that are taken for granted in England. Please pause for a moment. Read this article. This scene, in the United States of America, is insane.

And what has been highlighted in the media regarding the debate over health care? It has been anything but good debate. The focus is on craziness because craziness makes for better television. I’m reminded of the 1966 film King of Hearts. The lunatics are running the asylum.

I frankly don’t care what Rep. Michelle Bachman says. Her opinions, as highlighted in the media, are rarely germane to a serious discussion of any issues. When a citizen at a town hall meeting compares President Obama’s health care policy proposals to those of Nazi Germany she loses all credibility in the debate. And how does it make any sense in a sane world that people can bring guns to an event where the President is speaking about health care? Does Mike Huckabee seriously believe that under Obama’s health care plan that Ted Kennedy would have been told, after being diagnosed with brain cancer, “go home to take pain pills and die?” Surely you’ve seen many more examples of incivility, false arguments, and deception over the past couple of months. In order to have a healthy debate about health care it is essential that each of us do our best to separate facts from fiction and stop focusing on the insanity.

Congress’s summer recess is almost over. The debate in Washington will resume next week. Health care in the United States is a serious issue that directly impacts our lives and our financial security. We cannot afford foolishness. Please pause in reading this post again, just for a few minutes, and watch this video that explains as clearly as anything I’ve come across the situation we are currently in and just what we face: Health Care Crisis: A Future at Risk. The video was produced by Shout America a non-profit organization committed to cultivating sustainable health care solutions.

Now take another few minutes and watch several doctors describe what health care reform could mean for Americans. This video was produced by “Heal Health Care Now“, an initiative of the American Academy of Family Physicians that supports meaningful health care reform.

Imagine a health care proposal that fit what some would call “Republican goals” of freedom of choice, personal responsibility, and reduced costs and, at the same time, that fit what some would call “Democratic goals” of universal coverage for all citizens with a core focus on preventive care to help people from getting sick (or sicker than we are) and to help us along the road to recovery.

There are some senators to whom we should be paying more attention. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced the Take Back Your Health Act of 2009 (S. 1640) that proposes just what I described in the previous paragraph. It is cosponsored by John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and would create a health care system based on “comprehensive lifestyle programs” that will prevent illness and reduce the costs of treatment for chronic diseases. Is it a perfect bill? I’m certain it isn’t. Should it be the starting point for bipartisan discussions for true health care reform? Yes, it should.

Unfortunately, the few legislators like Wyden, Cornyn, Harkin, and others who are trying to reform health care in the United States in a laudable fashion have so far been largely ignored by the media. They should have multitudes of us registering our support. Instead, they’re being upstaged by craziness.

Isn’t it time we restored sanity to this important debate?