Bill Would Prevent Rationing

Published August 1, 2009

U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have introduced legislation to prevent the federal government from rationing health care services.

Senate Bill 1259, the Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act of 2009, would prohibit the government from using “comparative effectiveness research” to deny treatments to patients based on government’s assessment of their cost-effectiveness.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to counter comparative effectiveness research (CER) allocations in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus” package, passed earlier this year.

Safeguards Against Rationing

“There is money in the stimulus bill for CER, but it failed to include safeguards to ensure the research wasn’t used to ration care based on cost,” said Ryan Patmintra, a spokesperson for Kyl. “What Sen. Kyl didn’t want to see was CER being used to determine the type of care a patient receives.

“We all agree our health care system needs to be reformed, and I think we really have a chance to get it right if we don’t rush to get it done,” Patmintra added.

Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council on Health Care, says the legislation is needed “because proponents of CER have failed to set up safeguards for patients who may need radical or costly treatments.

“The Kyl bill highlights and underscores the key concern with the CER initiative,” Brase said. “Proponents of CER have not been shy about saying that they only want doctors to provide ‘effective’ care, but no standard of ‘effective’ care can or will meet the unique needs of each patient.

“[Proponents of CER] intend to standardize care in a nation of non-standardized patients,” Brase added, “and it will result in harm to patients, not better or higher quality care.”

Call for More Action

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, says more action will be needed even if the bill does pass.

“Rationing will be an inevitable outcome of any government-run health care program,” Gessing said. “This bill is a good start, but legislators will have to do more than just this if they are to help us avoid a government-run health care system.

“Any other top-down, government- or bureaucracy-controlled health care program would inevitably result in rationing,” Gessing added. “Resources are limited, and government does not have the information necessary to allocate resources appropriately. Worse, government bureaucracies such as the Post Office are notoriously inefficient.

“Kyl’s bill is useful in that it makes a statement that questions need to be answered before moving forward, but the real way to stop government control of health care will have to come from the grassroots and with the bill’s opponents providing a real alternative to greater government control,” Gessing said.

Cautioning Against Hurry

Many legislators and analysts have voiced concern about what they see as a rush to pass a health care reform measure that has not been properly thought through.

“Congressmen need to take their time in passing health care reform legislation,” said Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute. “This legislation will directly affect each and every one of us for generations to come.

“We have not only a right but a duty to carefully review it and let our representatives know how we feel about it,” Scandlen added. “That takes time, but this issue is far too important to shortcut. Anyone who supports fast-tracking this legislation should be voted out of office, period.”

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Illinois.

For more information …

Senate Bill 1259, the Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act: