Monday, October 12, 2009

Mike Rogers Defends Wasting $700 Billion Annually

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) receives a lot of money from the pharmaceutical, health and insurance industries, which probably explains why he's pushing false information about health care reform. While speaking at the Michigan Business and Legislative Forum last week, where he repeatedly bragged that he had read all 1000+ pages of the House health care bill, he argued that the House reform legislation would allow the federal government to use the results of comparative effectiveness research to ration costly treatments.

Rogers is wrong (he would have known that if he had read page 524 of the legislation). Pulitzer Prize winning says this claim is false:
But in this case, there actually are provisions in the bill about comparative research to make sure it is not used for rationing. Language in the House version of the health bill specifically states: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer."

And let's be clear, comparative effectiveness research has been done by the government for years and years. The Obama administration wants to greatly expand the amount of research. The economic stimulus package also included more funding for comparative effectiveness research. And the bill included a similar disclaimer that it would not mandate insurers to cover or reimburse one treatment or medication over another. also says this claim is false, and so does the AARP:
"It boggles the mind" said AARP spokesman Jim Dau, how comparative effectiveness research has been portrayed by opponents of the health care plan as government rationing of care.

"It's just good common sense," Dau said of the research. "It's giving individuals and doctors better evidence-based research so that they can make better decisions."
What exactly is comparative effectiveness research? The Center for American Progress explains that "it evaluates different drugs, medical devices, and clinical procedures for the same illness against each other. In contrast, the bulk of research done today examines whether a specific treatment works compared to doing nothing, but comparative effectiveness research evaluates which therapy works best among a range of possibilities for the same illness or condition." This research is important because it can save money.
It’s estimated that one-third of procedures and treatments administered in the United States have no proven benefit and account for up to $700 billion annually in current spending. Moreover, some of these treatments can have harmful side effects, produce worse health outcomes, and then, as a result, add to the soaring costs of medical care.
I don't know about Mike Rogers, but I don't like paying $50 dollars for a pill that's not anymore effective than one costing a buck, and the media is full of articles questioning whether cholesterol drugs do any good or if angioplasty is advisable in all patients. My favorite story is from last fall when the NY Times published an article about one of the biggest medical trials ever organized by the federal government. It showed that generic diuretics (water pills) costing only pennies a day, and in use for high blood pressure since the 1950s, worked better than newer drugs that were 20 times as expensive. Not only that, the research revealed that the pricier drugs increased the risk of heart failure and stroke.

As CAP points out, "There is no incentive for the companies to fund research that compares their treatment to another since it is not in their best interest to determine if another treatment works as well or better than theirs. Because of this the federal government must invest in this research."

It just doesn't make sense for Rogers to criticize comparative effectiveness research unless he's hoping to protect his big donor's profits. Republicans want us to take charge of our health and spending on health care dollars, yet they seek to limit information about over-priced or hazardous medications or treatments. Not only can that be harmful to our health or downright deadly, it's a waste of money - as much as $700 billion annually.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

1 comment:

Kelster93 said...

Mr. Rogers has been shopping this story for a while... that is, when he hasn't been hissy-fitting about terrorists in Standish and boasting about how individuals didn't wait around for the federal government to get us out of the Great Depression.

We need to keep calling him out on this!