Washington Post Says Health Care 'Rationing' Shouldn't be Dirty Word

The real problem with U.S. health care is a “misalignment of the American system,” at least according to The Washington Post.

Post staff writer Ceci Connolly presented that perspective Sept. 29 in her article: “In Delivering Care, More Isn't Always Better, Experts Say.” She suggested that rationing is an acceptable correction for the “widespread misuse and overuse of tests, treatments and drugs that drive up prices, have little value to patients, and can pose serious risks.”

Connolly cited a 2008 New England Healthcare Institute report that said $850 billion in waste can be annual cut from U.S. health care spending without sacrificing care quality. “That is enough money to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office,” she wrote.

Although Connolly quoted critics who warned against rationing that happens in the Canadian and British health systems, she returned to her theme of America’s over-consumption of health care resources: “Often, people with generous insurance plans can run up large bills and face life-threatening complications from unnecessary care: back surgeries that result in wound infections, when physical therapy might have been a more effective treatment; imaging scans that expose patients to radiation; medication-caused side effects that must be treated.”

Connolly also quoted Bernard Rosof to support rationing. He is chairman of the board of directors of New York's Huntington Hospital and a board member of the independent National Quality Forum. “‘We will eliminate a lot of harm that comes from the overuse and inappropriate use and misuse of medical interventions,’ he said. ‘This is not about rationing. This is about practicing evidence-based medicine.’” Neither Rosof nor Connolly explained why doctors can’t practice evidence-based medicine without nationalizing one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

She cited numbers and listed procedures that produce waste in the system and said some could be addressed with “better data on what works and greater use of electronic medical records” Connolly wrote. “But the shift will also require changes in payment incentives, malpractice laws and, ultimately, cultural attitudes.”

Connolly left an important question unanswered. In fact, she left it unasked: Is eliminating much – even most – of the waste in our system worth ceding control of health care to bureaucrats?