Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good

September 20 2007, 4:30 PM
The blue-ribbon commission studying ways to reform Colorado's heath care system says that it doesn't have enough money to find an immediate answer to the problem. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:
The commission given the task of reforming health care in Colorado is underfunded, lacked enough time and can't solve the state's health care crisis this year, its chairman said Wednesday. Many important matters are beyond the purview of the commission, said Bill Lindsay in comments during and after a panel discussion sponsored by the Colorado State Association of Underwriters at the Pepsi Center. Some of those issues include studying the impact of technology on the system, and the way providers are reimbursed through Medicaid and Medicare. Those are significant factors that need to be studied but cannot be addressed by the commission. "Unfortunately, the commission would have loved to have the time, the staff and budget to get into these items," Lindsay said. "But that wasn't available to us." Lindsay said the best the commission can do is to make improvements in some areas of health care in Colorado, but the group won't solve the problems... ...The Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform was created by the legislature in 2006 and solicited a variety of proposals to tackle the problems of rising health care costs and the growing population of the uninsured - numbering more than 780,000 in Colorado. From that effort came a final group of four proposals submitted by different interest groups laying out their formulas for health care reform. A fifth proposal is currently being hashed out by the commission, and a first draft is due Monday. The commission is supposed to complete its work by the end of January. Lawmakers will then have the option to pick any or none of the proposals to draft into legislation. Lindsay said Colorado vastly underestimated the amount of money that would be needed to seriously reform the current system. The bill that created the commission allocated $100,000 to study the issue. But Lindsay said similar groups studying health care reform in other states were given in excess of $1 million by their state lawmakers. To get to that figure, Lindsay said the Colorado commission had to solicit money from foundations and collect donations.
Lindsay may be right about the costs of studying health care reform for the "Blue Ribbon Commission," but I hope his fatalistic attitude on reform for 2008 doesn't scuttle the chances of legislation in general. As the saying goes, we shouldn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good. As an aside, we should really start calling the "Yellow Ribbon Commission" at this point, since I don't think they're deserving of a "blue" ribbon. But I digress... Most people agree that health care in this country is a mess. As an industrialized nation, America is woefully bad in the health care department compared to other countries such as France, Germany, Japan and Canada. Health care reform has been discussed for years and years, but nothing ever gets done nationally because nobody can agree on a widespread solution. Several states have tried their hands at local reforms, most recently in Massachusetts, and while every state-level plan gets criticized for particular problems, at least they're doing something. Perhaps it is too much to expect for Colorado to put forth a large-scale health care reform plan in 2008, but I certainly hope that legislators at least put forth their best possible proposal this winter. We may not be able to reform health care in Colorado in one fell swoop, but that doesn't mean we can't start chipping away at the problem piece by piece.