Sen. Bennet and health care costs

Back in August, when Sen. Michael Bennet visited Grand Junction and met with The Daily Sentinel’s editorial board, he emphasized that rising health care costs could bankrupt middle-class families and seriously harm small businesses. Driving costs down, he said, must be the first step in health care reform.

We wholeheartedly agreed in August and continue to do so today. So we were more than a little surprised last month when Bennet announced his support for the Senate health care reform bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Critics argue that Reid’s bill focuses on providing universal health care while doing little to control costs. Even the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would significantly raise insurance costs for individuals who purchase their health insurance privately, rather than obtain it through their employer.

Last month, Bennet said the Reid bill would contain costs and provide universal coverage. “This bill will significantly reduce the deficit, bring down costs and provide affordable health insurance to all Americans,” he said in a Nov. 23 press release.

There are some cost-cutting provisions in the bill as it was introduced, although the effectiveness of many is disputed. Even with those, however the bill needs some important additions to achieve the cost savings that Bennet and others seek.

Today, Bennet and fellow Colorado Sen. Mark Udall join nine other freshmen Democrats in offering amendments to the Senate bill — amendments aimed at reining in health care costs.

Among those amendments are ones that will help the health care industry move toward electronic record keeping and information exchange, according to The Denver Post. Other amendments in the package aim to push the health care industry toward rewarding quality of care rather than the volume of patients seen or number of medical services provided.

Those are certainly sensible ideas that ought to be at the forefront of the debate over health care reform. Those amendments will receive a hearing, a spokesman for Bennet said. However, there’s no guarantee they’ll be passed.

Still, we hope Sen. Bennet will push even harder on reining in costs in our health care system. Last August, he argued convincingly that driving costs down should be top priority. Health care reform will accomplish little if costs are not contained.


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