NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 4, 2009

Patients count on their doctor to do whatever is possible to treat their illness. That is the promise doctors make by taking the Hippocratic Oath.  But President Obama's advisers are looking to save money by interfering with that oath and controlling doctor's decisions, says Betsy McCaughey, a patient advocate and founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. 

Obama is pledging to rein in the nation's health care spending and the framework for influencing was included in the stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  The legislation sets a goal that every individual's treatments will be recorded by computer, and your doctor will be guided by electronically delivered protocols on "appropriate" and "cost-effective" care.

Heading the new system is Dr. David Blumenthal, a Harvard Medical School professor, named national coordinator of health information technology.  His writings show he favors limits on how much health care people can get.  But he does concede that there are disadvantages, such as:

  • Longer waits for elective procedures and reduced availability of new and expensive treatments and devices.
  • Yet, he called it "debatable" whether the faster care Americans currently have is worth the higher cost.
  • But if electronic health records are to save money, he says, doctors will have to take advantage of embedded clinical decision support.
  • If requirements are set too high, many physicians and hospitals will rebel -- petitioning Congress to change the law or just resigning themselves to accepting penalties.

Having medical records instantly available is beneficial, as is delivering current research to doctors electronically, says McCaughey.  But under-treating patients is a larger problem: 46 percent of patients fail to receive needed treatments.  To reduce spending, as President Obama promises, doctors will have to be pressured to deny care, says McCaughey.

Source: Betsy McCaughey, "The Attack On Doctors' Hippocratic Oath," Investor's Business Daily, April 29, 2009.

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