Lately there have been 'news' reports claiming that the economic stimulus bill contains provisions for a 'health czar' who will oversee doctors' treatment decisions and extend the long arm of the government into your doctor's office; who would decide what treatments are acceptable and not acceptable for payment. The claim is false -- the bill is referring to the expansion of electronic medical records to HELP guide medical decisions. Who could argue that care is improved when any provider within your health system can pull up your records instantly, whether you're in the ER, clinic or post-op recovery? Some organizations already do this quite handily.
I had the misfortune to see this scare story reported on CNN the other day, breathlessly announced by CNN Newsroom host Heidi Collins (who solemnly intoned the words "National Health Care") and poorest-excuse-for-a-medical-correspondent-ever Elizabeth Cohen. After discussing it in the vaguest terms for a minute or two, Ms. Cohen then admitted that she had looked at the language of the actual bill (I give her credit for that, wow, you go , journalist!) and lo and behold, it didn't exactly SAY what people were claiming. There was no language stating that the government would tell doctors what to do. So I'm thinking, just where is the story here? But far be it from CNN or any news organization to pass up hinting at a sensational revelation, if only to kind of back off it later.
But regardless of your political philosphy of any of this, what drives me nuts is that I have YET to hear ANYONE on these shows mention the fact that there is ALREADY someone who tells your doctor what to do! Every single damn day we pharmacists call doctors to tell them "Your patient can't have that drug, they have to use this one." "Your patient can only get 12 tablets per 30 days." "The insurance company won't pay for two tablets a day, only one." "Your insurance company needs a prior authorization, and that means THEY will decide if you really need this drug." And that's just the pharmacy side of things, never mind the doctor visit/treatment/lab test/ procedure part. I kept waiting for Ms. Collins and Ms. Cohen to mention this as an aside, but it never came. Whether it's true or not, is it actually NEWS that treatment decisions are made by 3rd party payors? Are these people just not aware of this? Have they never been to a doctor or a dentist? No, I think it just makes for a better story when people think some government bureaucrat is going to be sitting in the examining room with them, instead of a desk jockey from Blue Cross or Aetna.
I know, I know, --- I admit I was pretty naive about news reporting until well into adulthood. I thought these people must be smart and well-researched --- I mean, how could it be on TV if it didn't pass the smell test? I am convinced they are the true culprits when it comes to the continual dumbing down of America. Nothing new I guess, but this story in particular left me pounding my forehead on the TV.
Now, I must go and watch more coverage of the Octo-Mom.