Do the terms "National Coordinator of Health Information Technology" or "Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research" sound familiar to any of you? Well, especially if you're a physician working in the US Health Care system, you better get to know these terms very quickly, because they will soon be a part of our lives. What am I talking about?
Unless you've been following this story very closely, you may have missed the health care provisions that are in the stimulus bill. Everyone knew it was coming, but the federal government has - on paper - established another way of regulating health care in this country.
One of the hot articles that has been passed around on twitter over the past 2 days or so is a commentary by Betsy McCaughey on Bloomberg.com called "Ruin Your Health WIth the Obama Stimulus Plan." This article is so specific that it had page reference numbers to the House Bill itself (which I heard is over 1000 pages). The article makes reference to a new bureaucracy of the federal government.
One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and “guide” your doctor’s decisions (442, 446).Upset yet? Well, read that again and let me know how you interpret that. I know! Now, you're really upset - or should be. The article goes on to say that this will be determined by something called the "Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research." Huh?
The other article which has good information on this is from the Wall Street Journal. The writer is Alicia Mundy and the article is entitied, "Drug Makers Fight Stimulus Provision." According to the article, "$1.1 Billion in research funding would be doled out to the National Institutes of Health and other government bodies." Did you read that closely? It said government entities.
The grassroots opposition to this is a coalition called the "Partnership to Improve Patient Care" which includes "lobbying arms of drug, device, and biotechnology industries as well as patient-advocacy groups and medical-professional societies." (I can just imagine the press saying things like patients and docs have gotten in bed with big pharma - yeesh).
Anyway, the reason I bring this up now is because this bill is in it's most critical phase. This bill is in the House/Senate conference committee where it's final form will take place. If you're not already, try to keep up with this story as much as you can.
The WSJ article states that the Senate language removed the cost provisions but the House version really emphasizes that cost is a prime component as to whether a medical treatment is deemed appropriate by the federal goverment. So, well just see what happens in the conference committee.
Update: Let the games begin! The counter media campaign has begun. Check out the CNN report below and Media Matters is starting to weigh in on the situation. These reports were just completed today.