FACT CHECK NO. 4: ‘Comparative Effectiveness’

By Kate Barrett

Jun 24, 2009 10:40pm

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf reports: When President Obama talked to Jane Sturm, whose mother received a pace maker six years ago at the age of 99, he said it’s important for the government to work with doctors and hospitals to determine the best care possible, as a rule, for specific ailments. Sturm said the doctor originally balked at giving her 99-year-old mother a pacemaker because it would cost Medicare $30,000. But Sturm argued the pacemaker saved the taxpayers money by keeping her mother out of the hospital for lengthy alternative therapy.
The president said it’s this kind of cost weighing that health care reform should focus on. “If we’ve got experts who are looking at this and they are advising doctors across the board that the pacemaker may ultimately save money,” he said. Such studies, known as “comparative effectiveness” touch on an important issue, according to many Republicans, particularly Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a practicing doctor. He sees a government hand in determining the best practices for health care leading to the rationing of care to what the government thinks is best and not what doctors want for their patients. Coburn has tried to change a reform proposal being considered in the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee to ban such comparative effectiveness research. The issue snarled that bill in committee earlier this week.

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