Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tackle Both Healthcare Debates

Today's Globe editorialized about how access to health care saves lives, but ignored a problem that threatens to be even greater than health care access: costs. Private insurance is becoming exponentially more expensive every year and the nation just can't keep up. It's bankrupting our cities, towns and schools; it's forcing parents and people to take lesser quality insurance, even if the rates are actually more expensive than their old coverage. Finally, according to the Governor, health care costs already take up 45% of the state's budget. There's an opportunity cost to continuing on this path of madness: it's preventing us from expanding educational opportunity, from expanding policies that can create jobs and from expanding the money we put toward research, the infrastructure and whatever else the Commonwealth needs. Rising health care costs are an anchor dragging this country down with it - and almost no one is willing to do anything more than complain about it.

I hate to say this, because access to health care is exceptionally important, but it is the easier conversation. There's a lot more political will to challenge access since it's a question more people can relate to - and, more importantly, it's not something the powerful health care lobby will be against. Heck, HMOs must love this country's current plans to deal with health care access, such as the Massachusetts plan and SCHIP: it's more money in their pockets.

So, the fact remains that we're doing almost nothing to address health care costs. We're on a short road to financial bankruptcy at municipal, state and even federal levels. Yet, I don't hear hardly anything about controlling costs. Sure, some of Hillary's, Obama's and Edwards's plans include cost control measures, but they're both few and far between, as well as the fact that they're not the centerpiece of their plan. For example, having a public insurance option - as Hillary's plan includes - will probably be the first to go, if she's elected. HMOs will bitterly resist real competition, the kind which could actually help keep costs down. Republicans will invoke the communist boogie man and be done with it. The only way this country can build momentum to address health care costs, which almost inevitably will include a public insurance option, is if every time some group or organization brings health care up, they bring both aspects of the debate: costs and access. If everyone has access to health care, but almost no one can afford it, we're all screwed.


Anonymous said...

One thing we need to do is get the lawyers off the doctors backs. Mistakes get made and there should be some financial punishment for bad medical care, but cap wrongful deaths at say 2 million. Noone should collect more than that.

Anonymous said...

anonymous, I checked the comments only for greater insight. Your comment disappoints and sounds like Republican Kool Aid. There are too many stories of doctors moving to another state, continuing to practice poor medicine.
We need an honest national debate that removes the profit from the plan.

Ryan Adams said...

Lawsuits are such a miniscule amount of the costs to the medical system that they're neither here nor there.

If we want to address costs, we need to make sure drug companies aren't price gouging in America, and that costs are kept down in terms of health care either by creating a single payer system or option, or some other measure. Those two measures will result in huge savings, increased access and better care.

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