Debate roils over effectiveness, ‘rationing’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Kansas Health Institute’s Dave Ranney attempts to illuminate and explain the fears that research into the comparative effectiveness of health care will lead to a “rationing” system that forces patients toward the cheapest options. Ranney interviewed prominent Kansas sources on all sides of the debate.

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., expressed his reservations about the possible consequences of seemingly-innocuous research into comparative effectiveness.

Roberts warned that there’s little to stop the federal government from using the research to figure out which medications or treatments achieve similar results for less cost. When that happens, he said, it won’t be long before Medicare starts cutting costs by steering doctors toward the cheaper alternatives and rationed or cookie-cutter treatments heedless of individual results.

And where Medicare goes, the nation’s health insurers will soon follow.

“This is very dangerous territory,” Roberts said.

In response to Sen. Roberts, Ranney quoted a health policy expert who said such theories are “fear mongering, it’s raising the specter of socialism, it’s telling people they’re going to have some fuzzy-headed bureaucrat telling them what to do, denying them choice.”

Ranney includes the answers that Kansas governor and HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius gave to similar questions posed by the Senate Finance Committee.

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