Who wants an effective health care system? Not Sen. Burr.

I actually took the time to read Sen. Richard Burr’s hash of a health care bill called The Patients’ Choice Act.

There is certainly no shortage of provisions to criticize in the legislation, but the most surprising is Burr’s elimination of comparative effectiveness research.

Even conservative physicians I’ve spoken to generally support comparative effectiveness research, or CER. CER involves, for example, reviewing the literature or conducting new tests on multiple artificial knees to see which knee is the safest and most effective. You would then disseminate that information to hospitals, physicians, and other providers.

Proposals in Congress fund more of this type of research and house it in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, at the Department of Health and Human Services. Reviewing the studies and conducting research under the bills in Congress would fall to actual researchers, scientists, and physicians.

Not surprisingly, medical device makers and drug companies aren’t too fond of CER. They prefer to take doctors out to dinner and give them pens that explain why their artificial knee or pain medication is the best on the market. We don’t need any of this head-to-head testing stuff.

Sen. Burr tends to often agree with medical device makers and drug companies, so his legislation would eliminate the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Now eliminating all effectiveness research would be a bit obvious, even for Burr.
So instead of a robust agency encouraging this line of investigation, Burr establishes a Health Care Services Commission, which is five people. Yes, Burr wants to replace AHRQ with five people.

No worries, though, Burr would have these five folks overseeing a newly established Forum for Quality and Effectiveness in Health Care. The Forum would consist of 15 people “nominated by private sector health care organizations.” Great, because industry is much better than scientists at figuring out what works and does not work. And industry certainly has the objectivity and credibility to disseminate information to doctors.

Burr also strips out the mandate to conduct head-to-head Consumer Reports style comparisons of medical technology.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that Burr eviscerates CER because his bill includes no proven strategies to contain health costs over time. Nothing. I also shouldn’t be surprised that Burr would so blatantly pander to big spending special interests. It’s sort of his hallmark.

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