The Post missed a much larger point in its July 23 editorial "Facing Up to Health Costs," which noted that the shakedown in health financing will reduce access to care for the indigent. While this is a real problem that requires short-term attention, the recent cost-cutting fervor threatens the quality of care our entire society can expect in the long term.
Our willingness to pay for health care through a variety of private and public efforts has done more than expand access. It has led to an unprecedented development of technology that has greatly extended and enhanced life. These advances have helped us survive heart disease, cancer and countless other diseases, at rates we never dreamed possible. Researchers and manufacturers have turned science into useful technology because there has been a predictable market for products.
But now, manufacturers are beginning to rethink their investment in the development of some new technologies. The reason? Quite simply, they see their markets shrinking under the new cost- driven incentive system.
Politically, it is easy to overlook the effects of cost cuts on technological development. After all, the effects of today's financing system won't become apparent in the marketplace for a few years. Those making the decisions that affect tomorrow's health care may not have to bear the political brunt of the results of these decisions.
But shortsighted solutions to political budget problems will hurt everyone in the future. President Reagan's bout with cancer underscores the importance of new technologies in identifying and treating cancer early. While these technologies have been with us only a short time, the decisions by researchers and manufacturers to pursue them were made years ago, under a climate favorable to developing new products.
Likewise, tomorrow's technology will result from today's investment decisions. And those decisions are based on today's climate -- a climate that places cost over quality, short-term savings over long-term savings and long-term benefits. The problem of indigent care is indeed severe and growing. And if we focus exclusively on cutting health care budgets, the problem will infect our entire society.