Health care rationing

Remember the most effective warnings about the new health care law?

“Rationing” and “Government getting between you and your doctor”

To this day the opponents of reform are still out on the stump scaring voters with these statements.

Read today’s story in the New York Times and see where the real rationing and interference with patient care will be coming from in the future—the health insurance companies and even doctors.

Health insurance companies are starting to pay cancer doctors for not prescribing the most expensive cancer drugs. The article points out that these doctor incentives “could represent a first step toward denying patients additional treatment or the latest chemotherapy regimen based solely on the cost….the new effort could be viewed as a move toward rationing care at the end of life.”

Joseph P. Newhouse, a health policy professor at Harvard who has studied how the Medicare payment system affects doctors’ choice of treatments, suggested that some payment options might give doctors an incentive to stop treatments if they lose money or make too much by not actively treating patients. . . . In the UnitedHealthcare program, for example, oncologists still get a fee even if the patient is not getting chemotherapy.

There is no argument that cancer treatment is very expensive and that “Hail Mary” unproven therapies need to be reigned in for the good of both the patient and cost, especially if we are all paying through Medicare. And that’s exactly why the new health care law establishes a system of medical experts to determine comparative effectiveness of treatments for all types of illnesses.

But ironically the political party striving to take control of Congress has pledged to eliminate the government effort to determine effectiveness of treatments. If they are successful, only the health insurance industry will make cost benefit decisions about treatments for you and your doctor. Are you afraid now?

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