Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh warned listeners that the $20 billion portion of the stimulus bill devoted to increasing the use of health care IT would undermine patient privacy. “Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system,” Limbaugh said.
Today, Fox News and the Drudge Report amplified his charge, launching a misinformation campaign against two health care provisions that invest in electronic health records and comparative effectiveness research. “If the government is telling the doctors what they can’t and cannot treat, and on whom they can and cannot treat, how does that create a job?” Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer asked.
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Fox News relied on a single Bloomberg editorial by Hudson Institute fellow Betsy McCaughey — which Megyn Kelly described as “a report” — to ascribe motives to provisions that are intended only to reduce health care costs and improve the quality of health care treatments.
The National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, for instance, which McCaughey and the Fox News described as a “new bureaucracy,” already exists.
Established by President George W. Bush in 2004, the Office “provides counsel to the Secretary of HHS and Departmental leadership for the development and nationwide implementation” of “health information technology.”
Far from empowering the Office to “monitor doctors” or requiring private physicians to abide by treatment protocols, the new language tasks the National Coordinator with “providing appropriate information to help guide medical decisions.” This provision is intended move the country towards adopting money-saving health technology (like electronic medical records), reduce costly duplicate services and medical errors, and create jobs.
The Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research is also far less ominous than McCaughey lets on. Since most of the information doctors receive about medications comes from drug representatives and not independent scientists, comparative effectiveness research would help doctors and patients understand which therapies work.
The stimulus bill establishes a Council to coordinate the government’s research into the effectiveness of drugs and treatments, ensuring that America’s health care dollars are used wisely. The Council cannot require doctors to adopt its recommendations, however. On the contrary, it seeks to provide additional medical research that will save billions of dollars in wasteful spending and educate physicians on the latest medical developments and practices.