President Barack Obama's push for comprehensive health care reform is receiving punches from the right and the left.

Conservatives on Capitol Hill object to a new government health-insurance option they believe will undermine private insurance.

Liberals object to a White House proposal for a reduction in Medicare payments to spur efficiency.

The toughest blow, however, has come from the Congressional Budget Office.

A CBO analysis of a draft health-care bill in the Senate health committee authored by Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., found it would cost approximately $1 trillion over the next decade but only reduce the number of uninsured Americans 46 million by one-third.

A CBO review of a separate reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee put the price tag at $1.6 trillion over 10 years.

Those are healthy sums to pay for what may be only partial remedies.

The CBO reports should serve as reminders for members of Congress to proceed cautiously yet deliberately on health-care reform, and with open minds.

For every argument that can be made in favor of the government option, there are private market reforms that could be enacted as alternatives or even complements.

The changes being discussed in Washington aren't only costly, they're revolutionary.

They will alter the way Americans pay for and receive health care, and they will have a significant impact on an industry that accounts for one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., seems to be aware of this.

His effort to craft bipartisan legislation with all stakeholders in the health-care debate will be difficult and time-consuming. But it's the correct approach.

Unfortunately, there's too much talk in Washington about the need to move swiftly on health-care legislation without considering the consequences.

It's the same talk that led too many members of Congress to vote for a stimulus bill stuffed with wasteful spending that won't come online as fast as promised a bill they hadn't even read.

America's health-care crisis is serious.

That's why it's incumbent on Congress to create the right reforms, not necessarily the fastest ones.

URL: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion

—San Antonio Express-News