Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Comparative Effectiveness": The Path to Rationing

Lawrence Hunter discusses how the Obama Administration will use "comparative effectiveness ratings" (CERs) to introduce health care rationing. Here's an excerpt from his article:
The Hidden Healthcare Horror

...CER basically involves comparing different pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices, and other treatments in order to determine which is most cost-effective for fighting a particular disease. Theoretically, that sounds like a good program. But, in practice, CER will likely be used to justify rationing and restrict patient treatment options.

That's been precisely the result of CER programs in other countries.

Britain's comparative effectiveness agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recently denied approval for the osteoporosis drug Protelos. NICE officials claimed that it was too pricey to be covered by the country's public insurance system. Never mind that research shows that Protelos's cheaper alternatives aren't effective for one out of every five osteoporosis patients. Countless Britons will now suffer from preventable bone fractures.

Canada's government-run healthcare system is equally stingy about approving state-of-the-art medical treatments. One recent example: A 57-year-old man living in Alberta went in for treatment for an arthritic hip. A specialist recommended he receive a cutting-edge surgery known as "Birmingham" hip resurfacing. Public bureaucrats denied the man coverage for the procedure, claiming he was "too old" for it. Worse still, they forbade him from paying for the procedure himself on the private market.

Virtually every government-run CER program ends up closing off patient access to the best treatments in the name of "cost consciousness." When bureaucrats are put in charge of medical care, cutting down on bills is prioritized over fighting disease.
Whenever government attempts to "guarantee" a service such as health care, it must also control it. This necessarily places bureaucrats in ultimate control of health care delivery, not physicians and patients.