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Debunked: Health Reform Means Rationed Care for Seniors

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) recently authored an article in National Review Online on the current health reform debate in Washington in which he argues:

“One particular provision in the Democratic bill has seniors worried, and rightly so. A new 'Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation' could ration access to medicines and treatments based on the government's assessment of the value of a human life and the 'cost-effectiveness' of treatment.”

The charge is false but this kind of thinking has nevertheless resulted in some irresponsible commentators going so far as to suggest the House bill will result in government sponsored euthanasia.

It's time to debunk this myth.

Sen. Brownback is talking about "comparative effectiveness research." Comparative effectiveness research is simply a wonky term that means the ability to compare different kinds of treatments to find out which one works best for which patient. It is a way of improving the quality of our health system. Such research requires standards and funding. AARP supports comparative effectiveness research provisions in the health reform bills in Congress

Comparative effectiveness research would not limit doctors and hospitals from providing the best possible care to their patients. In fact, this research would do the opposite--giving doctors the best information available to make health care decisions with their patients. This research is designed to also empower patients--giving them more and better information so they can make better decisions with their doctors.

The bottom line is that AARP will not support any legislation that gets between patients and their doctors. Period.

While our country spends more than $2 trillion a year on health care, we spend less than 0.1 percent on evaluating how that care works compared to other options. AARP believes spending more money on research will improve our health delivery models.

What makes the "rationed care" charge so risible is that opponents of the comparative effectiveness provision used the exact same argument against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last February. "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," critic Betsy McCaughey wrote at the time. Given Ms. McCaughey's position as a Director of a medical device maker - an industry that stands to lose billions of dollars in sales of equipment that might be determined as ineffective - we would hope there is no conflict of interest in her outspoken criticism.

It should be noted that the stimulus act hasn't denied treatment to anyone. But that hasn't stopped critics from dusting off the old fear mongering playbook.

Health care is too important for this kind of partisan rhetoric. Let's have a conversation about the issues. Let's talk about what works and what doesn't. But please, let's not make up scare tactics to frighten people from the facts.

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