Reality Check: The "Rationing" Smear... Again?

Reality Check

When people use arguments they know are bogus, it's probably because they know they don't have any valid arguments at their disposal. So it would seem with opponents of reform in the Senate spending today obsessed with arguments about "rationing" that were debunked months ago.

Their attacks are focused on the fact that the legislation supports research into what treatments work best for patients. Before we go any further, let's just say this as plainly as possible:

Under health insurance reform, this research cannot be used to dictate coverage.

In fact, this objective medical research empowers doctors and patients and helps them fight insurance company decisions to deny treatment and ration care.  Maybe this is why opponents of reform are trying so hard to keep updated medical information out of the hands of our nation's doctors.

What this patient-centered health research does specifically is provide doctors and patients with the best medical information to help them make the best decisions, and it is even written into the law that the Secretary of Health and Human Services cannot deny coverage of a treatment based solely on this research. When you consider that this research is intended only to make sure you get the most effective care, opposition seems outright bizarre, and twisting it into some "rationing" attack seems outright low.

In case anybody wants an objective source on this, the independent watchdog Politifact gave such claims an unambiguous “False” rating back in August. Yes, August:

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.

Need more?  Politifact had a couple more reliable sources up their sleeve:

AARP, the leading advocate for seniors, has long been a strong supporter of such research.

"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."

Gail Wilensky, who ran the Medicare program under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, is another big advocate of comparative effectiveness research. She views it as lobby-free information that can be used to empower patients.

A New York Times editorial out today also touches on one of the recent news hooks opponents of reform are attempting to twist for their own purposes, the bogus links between a recent study on mammograms and health insurance reform (previously debunked here as well). They rightly boil the issue down to this:

The only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would only make them more accessible.

This could be said of preventive care across the board as well.

Related Topics: Health Care
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