NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 31, 2009

Cancer drugs for seniors might take second place to jungle gyms and farmers' markets -- so-called preventive care -- which are covered under both the House and Senate versions of the health bill, says New York writer Myrna Ulfik.

  • The stimulus package passed earlier this year allocated $1.1 billion for hundreds of "Comparative Effectiveness Research" studies.
  • This project will compare all treatment options for a host of diseases in order to develop a database to guide doctors' decisions.
  • Research of this sort typically takes years, but the data will likely be hastily drawn conclusions that reflect the view of the government agencies that fund the studies: Cheap therapies are just as good as expensive ones.

Tom Daschle, President Obama's original pick to head Health and Human Services, argues in his book "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health Care Crisis," that we should accept "hopeless diagnoses" and "forgo experimental treatments."   Daschle blames the "use and overuse of new technologies and treatments" for runaway health care costs.  He suggests a Federal Health Board modeled after the British "NICE" board to make decisions on health care rationing.

But the British system is infamous for denying state-of-the-art drugs to cancer patients.  Thus cancer-survival rates in Britain are far below those in America, just as they are in Canada, says Ulfik:

  • Canadian cancer patients told to wait months for treatment and diagnostic scans frequently go south and pay out-of-pocket for care in the United States.
  • A number of Quebeckers even sued their government for violating their "right to life and security" under the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Canada's Supreme Court has acknowledged the pervasive rationing that occurs; in the 2005 case Chaoulli v. Quebec (Attorney General) , the majority opinion stated: "The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."

Source: Myrna Ulfik, "Health Reform and Cancer," Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2009.

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