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Health reform talks must be transparent

The time arrives for serious discussion on health care reform in Washington, D.C. Work will be done to find a compromise package that can be accepted by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, based bills both chambers passed late last year.

That work should be done in public.

With so much concern -- and misconception -- about just what is in the bills warrants a public view over the negotiations in conference committee. With health care be government-run? Will it allow taxpayer-paid abortions? Will it gut Medicare, the senior health program important to so many millions of American citizens?

Myths and rumors can be explained and revealed if the talks are done in public. If there is a fear of public scrutiny affecting the ability to "horse trade "for a better bill, we ask what is there to horse trade? Much of that was done in the House and Senate on each chamber's individual bill. The conference committee should be dealing with everything on the table.

"President Obama, Senate and House leaders, many of your rank-and-file members, and the nation's editorial pages have all talked about the value of transparent discussions on reforming the nation's health care system," C-SPAN's Brian Lamb writes in a letter to congressional leadership about televising the conference committee. "Now that the process moves to the critical stage of reconciliation between the chambers, we respectfully request that you allow the public full access, through television, to legislation that will affect the lives of very single American."

We would also go one step further. At least one watchdog group is calling for the final bill -- before it gets final House and Senate approval and sent to the president -- be posted online for at least two weeks to allow the American public to study it line by line, if they so desire.

This will be a monumental effort to pass health care reform, but it can be most meaningful if the process is as transparent as possible to the public can see exactly what direction that reform will take. -- Bemidji Pioneer