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They Are Listening

I guess folks are listening after all. The concerns about government intrusion and control of our health care made the news. Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released a statement of “Frequently Asked Questions about the Health Provisions in the Uncontrollable Spending Stimulus package. In it he denies there should be any concern about government monitoring of our health records or the government setting treatment guidelines. He makes statements like:
“In fact, the Senate bill specifically prohibits the government from making any coverage
decisions based on this research [Comparative Effectiveness Research], or even from issuing guidelines that would suggest how to interpret the research results. The sole aim is to disseminate the results of the research to the public, so that patients and their doctors can make the best decisions for their specific situations, together.”

It would really be helpful if he would point to the specific statement in the legislation that supports his claims. He says that the fines for physicians who do not meet “meaningful use” standards refer to the use of electronic records and not to the adoption of specific treatment guidelines. However, the term “meaningful use” is left undefined and up to the discretion of the HHS Secretary to delineate.

Do I feel better? A little bit. However, this is a partisan senator who is head of the committee responsible for this monstrosity of a spending bill. He wants to get it passed. Do I trust him to put out a straight answer free of political spin? No.

Implementing electronic medical records and tasking the government with comparative effectiveness research are huge undertakings. I am actually a strong supporter of both these initiatives. These should not be footnotes in a rushed-through-congress-before-anyone-realizes-what’s-going-on, “catastrophe” avoiding, pork laden spending spree bill. These topics deserve thorough public discussion and debate. What exactly is the government role in these activities going to be? How will the results of the information be used? The House version of this bill specifically states that the results of comparative effective research will prevent the prescribing of expensive treatments? It states that cost effectiveness will be factored in to treatment decisions. What does that mean? In Great Britain it means that a monetary value is placed on human lives in order to justify the expense of treatment. What does it mean in the United States? Why are we sneaking these provisions through rather than subjecting them to open and honest scrutiny?

Bottom line—The Health Provisions have no short-term impact on the economy. Take them out of this bill. Propose them as separate legislation. If we are going to do this, let’s do it right.


Rosemary Bogdan said…
I totally agree. It's very suspicious that, if it's such an innocuous item, that it's being hidden in a "financial stimulus" package. Why not propose it separately? The only answer I can think of is that someone is trying to avoid the public debate.

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