Most of the groups need at least columi to beat LI, especially pugs, that's the fact, and the game's drop should make sense to the majority. Companion upgrade is not a big deal, since they don't get benefit from set bonus, some Exotech is good enough and easier to farm.
The reward is the most important thing because not many people want to run a FP/OPS again and again if they don't get enough reward.
First, your argument about "most of the game's drop should make sense to the majority"
cleverly overlooked my comparison to SM TfB. The same people that can't run HM LI without full Columi+ aren't going to finish SM TfB until they have Rakata/BH. Yet it would be absurd to make SM TfB drop Campaign or Dread Guard.
Your second argument about running FP/OPS "again and again"
Once you've conquered HM LI, the reasons to run it again and again include:
1. You want the Black Hole comms
2. You like the challenge.
3. You're bringing friends and/or guildies through it
There are probably some others I'm overlooking. But you're not running for the gear that drops in the instance as you already got it.
Heck, I still run T1 HM FPs, but it certainly isn't for the Columi tokens ...
Now as far as adding rewards to HM LI to encourage people to run it, I liked the idea of special gear (such as Cartel market gear) or something similar. Something cool, or rare. Not progression gear, but other stuff. THAT would be the bomb.
How about a White +41 Power Crystal with a 1% drop rate?
What do you think of that?