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.