The health care reform bill the U.S. Senate's Finance committee passed Tuesday needs some changes. Happily, changes are almost certain, since Senate leaders must reconcile that bill with one passed by another Senate committee. Afterward, whatever the Senate passes must be reconciled with the House version of the bill.
Some issues bear repeating: Consumers need the option to buy insurance from a public plan - a provision not in the Finance bill but in the other two. However, several possible compromises might be acceptable. One is a "trigger" -- suggested by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine -- which would allow the public option if other mechanisms don't reduce costs.
The good news is that any of the bills, if adopted, would expand access to health care for millions of Americans. The bills would require all Americans to have insurance and would offer subsidies for lower-income families. That, alone, will be a huge advance in the U.S., where the Census estimates 46 million people lack health insurance. Many get expensive care at emergency rooms - driving up hospital and insurance costs for the rest of us. Others don't get needed care for chronic conditions until they're seriously ill and then need much more expensive care.
Yet while any improvement is welcome, none of the bills solves one of the key problems - holding down the overall cost of care by changing how doctors and hospitals are reimbursed. Today, the financial incentive is for expensive procedures rather than preventive ones. Until the overall cost of care is controlled, the cost of health insurance, plus out-of-pocket spending, is likely to keep rising.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.