From the St Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 25: (republished in the Spokesman-Review, 2 March 2009)
Conservative commentators — Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and Glenn Beck among them — have been railing against a provision in the federal stimulus bill that funds research into how well medical treatments actually work and distributes the results to doctors and patients.
Limbaugh warns darkly that comparing the effectiveness of health treatments is just the first step toward health care rationing and government-controlled medicine.
Never mind that health care already is rationed in the United States on the basis of price. Never mind that knowing the utility of goods and services offered for sale is the conerstone free-market economics essential to determining their value. Never mind that the rationing assertion is borrowed wholesale from a flawed analysis by Betsy McCaughey, a former Republican lieutenant governor of New York, who works for a think tank funded in part by the drug industry.
So who would oppose improving health quality and reducing waste? Some drug and medical device makers worry that testing will show their ultra-expensive products aren’t much better or any better than existing alternatives.
And then there are politicians and pundits with nothing better to offer but bankrupt ideas and no way to sell them but fear itself.
In 2007 and 2008 Lou Dobbs (mentioned in the above republished editorial) did a lot of railing about health care costs and just what it was doing to bankrupt the middle class. In the name of a “war on the middle class” he was doing a number of road trips and even testifying before Congress. Just as in the name of the war on the middle class, he posed such sympathetic views as don’t people want a government that works? And he was all for pushing for a government that works. That was when the people spoke on 4 November 2008 and ousted a lot more GOP from the Congressional ranks and put a Democratic president in the oval office. Now as given by that “liberal media” article above, Mr. Dobbs has done a complete about face. He is no longer worried about any “war on the middle class” or a government that might actually start working for the people that elected it, instead he ends up pushing the sort of garbage that government must now be the institution to be feared because… but without possibly telling his viewing audience that the very same health care industry: too flawed, too inefficient, too wasteful, too expensive; is now providing his talking points.
A government that requires the health care industry to begin proving that any device, any drug entering the marketplace be shown to be reliable, effective, and safe is only doing what it should, regulating interstate commerce. Since one can assume that drug and medical device development won’t only be sold in that state where that specific manufacturing corporation is actually located. And if the presumption is that such drugs and medical devices being sold nationwide then the viability of the product must be a great concern to those who will ultimately use it. If it is no more effective than existing products, just more expensive, why do we need it? If expensive does not mean quality, why do we buy it? I think I’d have no doubts about drug companies having heart burn over this. A stimulus package that includes consumer protection would require that they actually work to earn the $$$ that they demand. Rather than passing snake oil to patients under an expensive name brand.