Why does Obama want to use elders as guinea pigs for testing medical procedures under IMAC?
As part of his health care package, President Obama proposed creating an independent commission of medical experts [IMAC] that would determine the medical procedures for which Medicare will pay. The reason is that patients now receive many costly procedures that provide little or no medical benefit. If we can reduce this waste, we can have large savings, while possibly even improving health outcomes. President Obama describes this as promoting good medicine.
He has a case, but there is one problem with this picture. If the plan is to promote good medicine, why are we just doing it for the elderly receiving Medicare? Why don't we want good medicine for everyone? ...
If the same rules for medical procedures were applied to everyone as to the elderly, it would be far less likely that genuinely useful procedures would be excluded from coverage just to save the government a few dollars. With far more eyes on the process, and far more interested parties, we could have much greater confidence that the panel's decisions were really based on sound evidence.
This raises another important issue about these sorts of medical panels: conflicts of interest. Top medical researchers have a bad habit of taking large consulting fees from folks like pharmaceutical companies, medical supply companies and insurance companies. In many cases, they even hold stakes in these companies.
These medical experts are undoubtedly all very honorable people. However, it simply is not fair to ask the public to trust the health of their loved ones to a medical expert who got a $50,000 check from a company that stands to profit or lose large sums of money depending on their decision. ...
But if the choice is between no panel or a panel comprised of people on the payroll of the drug companies and their ilk, then no panel would be the better outcome. The fact that putting together a conflict-free panel is actually a problem is a testament to the corruption of our health care system. In the country as large as the United States, there should not be any difficulty finding top experts who survive on their salary as a researcher. The vast majority of us survive on considerably less money.
In short, President Obama's plan to weed out ineffective and wasteful medical procedures is a good one. But we should not single out Medicare beneficiaries as guinea pigs in this adventure, and definitely must ensure that the people to whom we entrust our health are not on the industry payroll.
Look, I'm sure there's a very good reason. Let me just put this can of dog food down while I look for it...
NOTE Hat tip, Jawbone.