creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Froma Harrop
Froma Harrop
21 Oct 2014
'Death with Dignity' Law Is Least Slippery Slope

The story of Brittany Maynard has revived the debate over Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. The law lets … Read More.

16 Oct 2014
Why Millennials Don't Drive So Much

Young Americans are just not into driving the way their elders are or did at their age. They are less likely … Read More.

14 Oct 2014
Castrating Conservative Principles in Iowa

There exists a government boondoggle that offends conservatives, liberals, environmentalists, oil refiners, … Read More.

Coming Between You and Your Doctor

Comment

The lights must dim around Google's data-storage centers every time someone does a search for "government bureaucrat coming between you and your doctor." Foes of the Democrats' health-reform proposals have been chanting this on the hour for a year — with a surge after Democrats put money for "comparative effectiveness research" in the stimulus bill.

This involves comparing treatments for the same condition to find which works best. The reform-killers insist that "government-run" health care would use these findings to tell doctors what to do, largely in the name of saving money. The stimulus legislation clearly states that cost may not be a factor in determining best practices — the studies would highlight the most successful treatments, not the cheapest ones. But hey, demagogues have never been sticklers for facts.

Those who care to move this conversation to a more grownup level will note a recent article buried in The Wall Street Journal. Its headline was, "Insurer Plays Judge on Cancer Care."

The piece notes that the giant insurer UnitedHealthcare "has started sending doctors individualized reports assessing their treatment of breast, lung and colorectal cancer patients." The company hopes that by showing doctors "how their treatments might vary from medical protocol," they will "reduce unnecessary care that doesn't improve health and raises health-care costs." Sounds like the government's comparative effectiveness research, except with money a factor.

Now let's move this discussion to a higher plane still. Money should be a factor. One can't blame insurers for wanting physicians to use better or just-as-good treatments that will save them money. We love our doctors, of course, but some are not up-to-date or direct patients toward things they have investments in or are looking to enhance their incomes through excessive treatment.

But why has the idea of letting the government do what private insurers do to save taxpayers money become such a hysterical hot button? Because the medical industry can more easily bully politicians than they can insurance companies.

They do this through campaign contributions and ads directed at an unsophisticated public. (People in the business know the score.)

By the way, many insurers have long monitored how doctors treat their patients in a variety of diseases. For example, industry giant WellPoint rewards doctors for using certain technologies and prescribing generic drugs.

What makes UnitedHealthcare's new program controversial is its application to cancer. Protocols are harder to apply to cancers, which can take on many forms and vary a great deal from patient to patient.

Yes, there are gray areas. For instance, some cheaper drugs may do as good a job as high-priced fancy ones, but produce more side effects, such as causing sleepiness.

Another example: Testing for prostate cancer has sent countless older American men into debilitating treatments when they were all but certain to die of something else first. Suppose a 75-year-old with a high P.S.A. score demands full-court surgery, and his doctor is happy to operate. If the insurance company tells the man, "Pay for it yourself," is it denying care?

These gray areas must be addressed by all insurers, whether government or private. Resources are not unlimited. The difference, however, is that government doesn't have to make a profit. Its bureaucrats get their middle-class salaries no matter how they decide. The private insurers must find millions extra to enrich their executives, pay back investors and advertise their wares.

The powers in Washington have clearly decided to keep most working Americans in the hands of private insurance companies. But the public should labor under no illusions that because evolving legislation has diminished the government's role in containing costs, no one is going to come between patients and their doctors. That's pure fantasy.

To find out more about Froma Harrop, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL CO.

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

??

??

??

??



Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
I think you are the biggest liar I have ever seen to write a comment. Yes we people of the US have had the right tovote whether we want Health Care or not. And the POLL showed we DO NOT WANT OUR HEALTH CARE RUN BY THE US GOVERNMENT. You are nothing but a low life liberal that wants to destroy this country. But that is okay if this health care bill goes thru all you liberals might as well get your walking papers .
Comment: #1
Posted by: Mary Jones
Thu Mar 11, 2010 4:00 AM
Dear Ms. Harrop:
I am the creator of the UnitedHealthcare measures for cancer care that you cite in your article. I would be happy to send you the actual measures and results for the entire nation. I think you'll be surprised to see how many of them are quality related.
You can reach me at lee_newcomer@uhc.com.
Lee N. Newcomer, M.D.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Lee Newcomer
Tue Mar 16, 2010 12:36 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Froma Harrop
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Walter Williams
Walter E. WilliamsUpdated 22 Oct 2014
Froma Harrop
Froma HarropUpdated 21 Oct 2014
Thomas Sowell
Thomas SowellUpdated 21 Oct 2014

29 Jul 2014 What Scares Americans About the Child Migrants

28 Nov 2013 Data Debris and the Time of Our Lives

12 Jun 2014 What Lurks in a Child's Online World?