February 16, 2009

This program is controversial because at some point, it probably will be used to influence care - and payment. Women's health activists warn that women respond differently to treatment than men, and surgeons look on it as an infringement on their medical judgment. (Even though their judgment is often demonstrably bad.)

But since the medical-industrial complex (and the wingnut media) is so firmly against it, how bad could it be?

WASHINGTON — The $787 billion economic stimulus bill approved by Congress will, for the first time, provide substantial amounts of money for the federal government to compare the effectiveness of different treatments for the same illness.

Under the legislation, researchers will receive $1.1 billion to compare drugs, medical devices, surgery and other ways of treating specific conditions. The bill creates a council of up to 15 federal employees to coordinate the research and to advise President Obama and Congress on how to spend the money.

The program responds to a growing concern that doctors have little or no solid evidence of the value of many treatments. Supporters of the research hope it will eventually save money by discouraging the use of costly, ineffective treatments.

The soaring cost of health care is widely seen as a problem for the economy. Spending on health care totaled $2.2 trillion, or 16 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, in 2007, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, without any changes in federal law, it will rise to 25 percent of the G.D.P. in 2025.

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