Focus should be on costsPosted Wednesday, July 29, 2009, at 10:07 AM
There is no question that this country needs a massive reform of its health care industry.
But the question, after 15 years of debate, has always been how to do it.
When you consider that the health-care industry has more than 6,000 registered lobbyists seeking to influence the 535 members of Congress, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on those lobbying activities, it should be painfully obvious why so little has been accomplished.
But there also is no question that health-care costs have gotten completely out of hand. The most expensive hotel room in the land barely exceeds the cost of a simple overnight stay in even a small, rural hospital. The cost of medications and procedures (even just simple tests) have gone through the roof, rising many times higher than the country's inflation rate.
We have the best medical system in the world, in terms of our ability to treat disease and injury. But far too many people do not take advantage of it because they can't afford it.
Even those who have health insurance, subsidized through their employers, often find the costs to be out of the reach of their pocketbooks. And those who don't have employer-subsidized health care are usually shocked at what individual health insurance can cost them. In some cases, for those on the lower end of the economic scale, those costs could equal or exceed their salaries.
And heaven help you if you have a "pre-existing condition." It's far cheaper to just make a down payment on a cemetery plot, because only the very rich could afford to pay the medical costs out of pocket.
President Obama has made health care reform a priority, and that's a good thing. We have to start addressing this issue in concrete terms. But the devil is always in the details and, with the current legislation running over 1,000 pages, there are a lot of details.
The question is, what's the best way to do it. Having affordable insurance available to all is a good idea, but the question is -- on whose backs will the cost be bourne? Can small businesses, especially in the current economy, bear the burden? Should taxpayers help subsidize the costs?
The real issue, however, in our opinion, is the actual costs of health care. When a hospital charges you $5 for a 39-cent tube of toothpaste, something is wrong. If Congress can find a way to rein in the costs, themselves, then a lot of the other problems start to fall into line and become relatively easy fixes.
It's the high costs of medications, the high costs of treatments and procedures, that are at the core of the problem. Lower those costs, and we'll bet insurance becomes a lot more affordable and comprehensive.
If Congress will focus on reducing health care costs, rather than trying to pay for the current (and still rising) costs, we'll have gone a long way toward actually solving the health-care crisis in this country.
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