The presidential candidates’ plans to
address the nation’s on-going economic upheaval have dominated the campaign news
coverage. But it’s more important than ever that the media, voters, and the
candidates themselves don’t lose focus on other major domestic problem facing
this country: healthcare reform.
The essential issue at hand is whether the
healthcare industry needs more or less government control. McCain has rightly
criticized Obama’s plan for putting bureaucrats between you and your doctor.
But, frighteningly, that might happen regardless of whether Obama is elected in
Legislation is currently in the pipeline
to create a government agency to evaluate the relative effectiveness of
different medical treatments. In Britain, such an agency already
exists. And because bureaucrats have ended up in charge of healthcare, heinous
injustices have become the norm.
victim of the British government's inexcusable behavior is Colin Ross. Mr. Ross
suffers from multiple myeloma, a kind of blood cancer. Given the rareness of
this disease, only one drug -- Calgene's Revlimid -- held any chance of
effectively treating his illness. Despite this, the U.K. health
system denied Mr. Ross his only hope of survival.
Even though Revlimid is
readily available throughout Europe and the U.S., the
British health system decided that it didn't want to foot the bill.
is a direct result of the limited resources of Britain's
government-funded health system.
Before a new treatment can be covered by
the NHS, Britain's National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) must first evaluate it. If NICE decides
that the drug isn't substantially more effective for the "average" Briton than
other less-expensive alternative treatments, it will recommend that the NHS save
its money and not cover it.
Unfortunately for Colin Ross, he isn't one of
the "average" patients that NICE took into account when rendering their
It's exactly this kind of nightmare scenario that Senator
McCain would like to avoid. But just last month, Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) introduced a bill that would create an American
equivalent to Britain's NICE. The Health Care Comparative Effectiveness Research
Institute, as it would be known, would have the same proposed purpose as its
And like NICE, the research conducted by the new
institute could end up being used to deny treatment to America's less
fortunate citizens. If this new agency decided that certain treatments didn't
meet their standards for cost-effectiveness, the U.S. government
would have a reason to withhold those treatments from patients using
government-run healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
British example has proved that this is what happens when you put thrifty
bureaucrats in charge of a nation's healthcare system. And yet, if Democrats win
the White House in November, this could be the first of many British-style
policies that the U.S. adopts.
rhetoric on the campaign trail is any indicator, the Senator recognizes the
gravity of this problem. And with any luck, a McCain administration would leave
life-or-death treatment decisions to doctors and patients -- not government