Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On Health Care Rationing

From Michael Kinsey at the Washington Post:
I suspect that what a billion-plus dollars' worth of (comparative effectiveness) research will find is that perhaps 30 percent of what we spend on health care is almost entirely worthless, or just barely better than a much cheaper alternative. Or it might be better and no one knows for sure. Denying someone these treatments or tests is rationing.

Similarly, when fear of malpractice lawsuits leads doctors to practice "defensive medicine" -- a legitimate complaint about current arrangements -- it doesn't mean that they order worthless tests. It means they order tests with only a very long-shot chance of finding something wrong.

Here is a handy-dandy way to determine whether the failure to order some exam or treatment constitutes rationing: If the patient were the president, would he get it? If he'd get it and you wouldn't, it's rationing.
I think he gets it.


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