U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), a practicing physician, released the following statement today regarding ongoing negotiations between House and Senate over controversial and complex health care provisions in the stimulus bill.
"The health care provisions in the House stimulus bill represent ideological and partisan overreach of epic proportions. It is ludicrous to ask a body that can't track its own spending to determine which medical treatments are best for individual patients suffering from complex diseases. The only reason to fund this project now is to lay the groundwork for establishing a government board that will be empowered to make life and death medical decisions about health care treatments and cost," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn explained that both the House and Senate version of the stimulus bill include $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research. Unfortunately, the House language overreaches by permitting the use of that money to make coverage decisions based on cost to the federal government.
"The practice of medicine is about 40 percent art and 60 percent science. A so-called comparative effectiveness' formula will replace the professional judgment of doctors and nurses, which is developed over many years, with the political judgments of politicians and bureaucrats. A comparative effectiveness formula will only save money by rationing care and ending lives. Congress is on the verge of enacting the same policy that Great Britain has used to decide, for example, that extending a patient's life for a year isn't worth more than $45,000," Dr. Coburn said.
"Trusting the government to ration care will take away choices and life-saving treatments from sick patients and deny families more time with their loved ones. Doctors and patients should be making decisions based on individual patient conditions and needs. Allowing government to make these decisions would set us on a dangerous path. The unelected staff and career politicians who are negotiating these details have almost zero real world experience in the health care sector. Congress should confess its limited capabilities in this area and debate this issue in the open, not rush through massive policy changes in secret," Dr. Coburn said.