When the annual insurance premium for a veterans organization I belong to doubled a few years ago, I was authorized in my capacity as finance officer to seek out bids for a less expensive policy - with no reduction in coverage.

I quickly discovered that a suitable replacement policy - that actually gave us better coverage - was available from another insurance provider in another state, at half the rate our former policy would have cost. Obviously we changed companies and to this day have been able to keep our costs under control with the new firm. If we see the policy premiums increasing at an uncomfortable or unsustainable rate, we will go back out to bid and look for someone new.

I mention this because in the debate over so-called "Health Care Reform" the real issue is not health care, but rather the cost of health care, specifically insurance and prescription drugs.

We can debate until we all are blue in the face over the government's takeover of the insurance industry, which is really what this is all about, but what we need is reform of the legislation that restricts free trade on health insurance policies.

If we are not happy with the coverage or the cost of our health care insurance, we can not call someone in another company in another state, to see if they offer a better or cheaper policy. We are stuck with what is available in our state and nothing else.

We can not obtain competitive bids for health care insurance as we do with automobile insurance. To which I ask, "WHY NOT?"

The Democratic sponsored "health care reform" currently working its way through the US Senate, heedless of the wishes of the voters, should be held up and examined closely for all its flaws, hidden costs, and yes, outright lies and deceptions. Otherwise, we not only will end up paying more for less - with legal and financial penalties if we don't - we also will see the demise of a viable American industry with resultant job losses for thousands of workers.

If we are going to put someone out of business I would much rather see the Fair Tax Doctrine replace the Internal Revenue Service. Accountants and lawyers can always find work, and the Fair Tax would resolve a lot of the problems now facing the US government.

Congress can't be taken seriously it it won't fix the most glaring problems first! Everyone will benefit from interstate competition for health insurance policies. If insurance industry executive pay is such a big deal, the best way to put a clamp on it is open up the industry to real competition, which will drive down rates, and make less money available for executive salaries and bonuses. Meanwhile, the customers will reap the savings.

The same can be done with prescription drugs. Let's forget for a moment that far too many Americans, particularly the elderly, are taking far too many drugs. My two oldest living relatives, my mother and my uncle - her brother - are both in their nineties and regularly take only vitamin/mineral pills. It is one thing if you have an illness that requires treatment, but next time you see a drug commercial on television, listen to the side effects listed at the end of the spiel - especially on drugs that may not be necessary.

I can't believe how many drugs can cause worse conditions by taking them than the original illness they are supposed to cure. And the truth is, many "conditions" can be cured with a balanced diet, exercise and weight control.

Congress can bring down the cost of non-generic prescription drugs just by shortening the length of time that new drugs can be marketed with no competition. I realize that pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on research and development and by all means they should be able to recoup their investments and earn a profit from their efforts.

But once again, competition will bring down the costs. Then we can turn our attention to whether so many people really need so many drugs.

It doesn't seem that I am asking the impossible here. I am suggesting that the two most expensive components of American health care be opened up to more competition which by the nature of the beast would drive down costs, and make affordable health insurance and prescription drugs available to more people.

Then we can turn to insurance for pre-existing conditions and other more complex issues.

On a related matter I was pleased to see Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman take a strong stand against the so-called "public option" which would close down a primary industry in the state he represents, and to other objectionable portions of the Senate bill. His strong and unwavering positions have forced the Senate to take some of the most objectionable parts - like cuts to Medicare - out of the "reform" bill.

For his efforts, Lieberman made the Connecticut local news yesterday when a pitiful band of protesters showed up outside his Hartford office. The protesters were easily outnumbered by the media, with one reporter putting their number at "about 15."

I couldn't help but wonder if that meant the reporter was rounding up to give the protest more weight than it deserved, or if news reporters these days can't count past the number of fingers on two hands. The news said the protesters had hoped to get a big crowd of similar minded activists out to attack Sen. Lieberman. But obviously, concerns about being forced to buy insurance we don't want, seeing cuts to insurance we need, and the wholesale gutting of Medicare scares people on the left just as much as those in the center.

The protest was weak, unfocused and would have gone unnoticed if the media wasn't so hot on calling Lieberman names for not being a lemming.

The media wouldn't be going out of business if it focused on real stories, like the fact that many elderly people - my mother and uncle come to mind - are scared that the Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislative efforts will take away Medicare. I should point out that most elderly people paid into Medicare through lifetimes of work and taxation. Now that they need it, they shouldn't have to worry that it will be taken away from them.

I hope Lieberman stands his ground and doesn't allow this travesty to continue through the Senate. Many people are saying that American health care is not the issue, but rather access to it needs fixing. I can live with that and I just outlined two ways we can improve access without destroying the good parts. It shouldn't be all that hard for members of Congress who really want to do some good to figure this out.

If the House and Senate remember that access is the issue, then America's elderly would be reassured - which is a good thing especially when we consider that the elderly are informed ... and they vote.