The NYT Again Suggests Cutting Back on 'Wasteful' Drugs...But Is That the Only Goal?

New York Times reporter Barry Meier made Sunday's front page with an investigative report, "Pain Pills Add Cost and Delays To Job Injuries." Meier specializes in reporting on what some consider excessive prescribing by doctors of painkillers that can sometimes lead to dependence and higher workman's compensation bills. But is the Times using such reporting to further its more politicized agenda: Curbing health care costs and advocating future limits on care in the name of the universal coverage that it supports?

The Times has previously come out against "wasteful" medicines it claims are only worth "a few months" -- or even five years -- of extra life. Will Times reporters and editors feel the same about the low value of those additional "few months" if one of their own family falls ill? And who made them the arbiter of such things in the first place?

Dotted throughout the paper's health reporting over the last few years is the suggestion that doctors are running too many "unnecessary" tests. Of course, no one can know if a test was truly "unnecessary" until the test is run and the results come back negative.

Even medical advances are treated as problems under such an agenda. Meier's story of October 1, 2009 concerned what sounded like a positive medical advance in heart treatment: Replacement valves, which can be implanted without open-heart surgery. But instead of evaluating this as a straightforward boon to humanity, Meier emphasized the new technology as a "costly valve for the frail" "that may drive up health care spending even further with costly new procedures."