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Commentary

Editorial: Medicine Tests
Washington Post, 11-8-04

The Post offers praise for the Medicare Administration's willingness to pay for expensive new drugs and procedures provided that "patients who use them agree to participate in studies of effectiveness." Eventually, the Medicare administration will use the data gathered in such studies to decide which procedures should be eligible for reimbursement, and which should not. "Over time, such studies could begin to force American medical practice to become more evidence-based and less subject to the expensive whims of fashion. If pricey new procedures don't show greater success than older, less costly ones, Medicare should refuse to pay for them."

The Post goes on to wonder if Medicare officials will be able to ward off the lobbyists from companies who champion pricey but ineffective treatments. That, we would argue, is not really the problem. As long as medical care is driven through third-party insurers, perverse incentives will drive spending priorities. Instead, the government should enlist the aid of the only group with real power over spending: consumers. Properly equipped with financial leverage, consumers will demand cost-effective treatments and providers - with, of course, help from the government in assembling information about quality adjusted outcomes.



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