Again and again and again, the cries go up from Capitol Hill about the cost of the various health care reform proposals. The one thing — the ONE thing — that President Obama has been firm on from the beginning is the financial cost to the federal government.

But there are other metrics, you know, that tell us whether a particular provision is helpful.

An interfaith group called Faithful Reform in Health Care continued their push for health care reform, and sent a letter today to members of Congress [pdf], urging them to keep working on “meaningful reform” of our health care system.

What do they say meaningful reform look like? Things that change the ugly reality of the current health care system:

  • Without reform, tens of thousands will continue to die needlessly each year for lack of access to care.
  • Without reform, tens of millions will remain uninsured and without adequate access to a full range of services.
  • Without reform, health costs will continue to grow much faster than wages.
  • Without reform, many millions of hard-working people and their children will join the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured.
  • Without reform, businesses, staggered by increasing employee health costs, will either drop coverage or will be unable to make needed investments.
  • Without reform, the nation’s economy — and its ability to create jobs — will suffer.

These are metrics that get far too little notice.

In a letter earlier this year [pdf] to both Obama and members of Congress, FRHC noted the kind of specifics they think will improve matters — things like a public option, subsidies that provide assistance to families below 400% of the federal poverty level, the elimination of exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, and the inclusion of all immigrants in health care reform regardless of their immigration status.

In all the talk about cost savings to the federal government, the real costs that our current insurance mess impose are all too often lost and the ability of the various proposals to change these costs is rarely addressed. Today’s letter doesn’t get specific about the House or Senate bills, nor the path for reform (reconciliation? new bill?), but simply holds up the enormous need for “meaningful reform” to be passed.

Meaningful reform asks more than “What’s the CBO score?” Meaningful reform asks “How many lives will be saved?” and “How many jobs will be preserved?” and “How can we deliver health care in a more productive manner?”

Now if only folks on Capitol Hill would ask those questions more often.