The NYT Wants to Put "Wasteful" Health-Care Choices to Sleep

The Times, a supporter of universal health care, wonders if "wasteful" medicines and "expensive" new medical procedures are worth "a few months" - or even five years - of extra life.

What's behind the Times' stealth attack on other people's health-care choices?

Without fanfare, the paper has published three front-page stories in three weeks suggesting that one medical procedure or another is wasteful or not beneficial and should be limited in the name of saving money. Such stories certainly make easier the Times' long editorial push for universal health care - and the rationing necessary for it to work

First came a three-column story on the Sunday June 29 front page, "Weighing the Costs of a Look Inside the Heart." The article by Alex Berenson and Reed Abelson denigrated free-market medical innovation, seeing it as a costly adventure that needed to be "reined in."

A faith in innovation, often driven by financial incentives, encourages American doctors and hospitals to adopt new technologies even without proof that they work better than older techniques. Patient advocacy groups and some doctors are clamoring for such evidence. But the story of the CT angiogram is a sobering reminder of the forces that overwhelm such efforts, making it very difficult to rein in a new technology long enough to determine whether its benefits are worth its costs.

If rich people choose to spend their money on innovative medical procedures, why does the Times care? Besides, such "early adapters" are necessary for any new procedure to become a commonplace one (with a related drop in price).

On July 6 (another Sunday, another front page), Gina Kolata and Andrew Pollock looked at an anti-cancer drug - "In Costly Cancer Drug, Hope and a Dilemma - Some Pay Up to $100,000 a Year for Avastin's Arguable Benefits," criticized the drug and for prolonging life "by only a few months, at that." Who appointed the Times to make personal health care decisions for the citizenry? This from the same paper always ordering the government to get out of the way of citizen "choice" when it comes to abortion.

And on the July 18 front page, Anemona Hartcollis's"Rise Seen in Medical Efforts To Improve Very Long Lives," marks the third in an informal series suggestinglimits on the health-care choices of other people. Hartcollis focused on 104-year-old New York resident Hazel Homer, who received a pacemaker at the advanced age of 99. Instead of celebrating this centenarian-plus, Hartcollis wondered whether such life-extending, life-enhancing pending was "wasteful" or a wise use of government Medicare money.

Her operation, a month before her 100th birthday, reflects what some doctors are hailing as a new frontier in medicine: successful surgery for centenarians. But others say that such aggressive treatment for what are euphemistically known as the late elderly can be wasteful and barbaric, warning that the rush to test the limits of technology can give patients false hope and compound their health challenges with surgical complications....With such rapid growth of centenarians, debate has mounted over how far to go - not to mention how much Medicare money to spend - in providing major medical services to extend already very long lives.