EDITORIAL: Ignoring science

It may come as no surprise to my readers to know that I’m not a fan of the current Administration, but it should equally come as no surprise to them that I don’t view THCB as a venue for those discussions. This blog is designed to focus on explaining the likely developments of the health care market, which of necessity brings with it a view on the likelihood of policy developments. But, for example, unlike most bloggers I never came to a formal position here on the PDIMA bill, even if I remain very dubious about the potential success of many of its aspects.

However, sometimes all reasonable people must make a statement when they see clear malfeasance, and in the last few days two incidents have forced me over that line. The first incident is the revelation that the head actuary of CMS was told to withhold cost information from Congress on the direct orders of CMS head Tom Scully. Scully of course left CMS straight after PDIMA’s passage to a well paid job as a lobby flack lawyer. He was also the representative of the for-proft hospitals in Washington in the 1990s — a decade in which his clients like Columbia and Tenet looted the Medicare system. Essentially scientific evidence (or whatever passes for it from actuaries) was deliberately withheld from Congress, and the difference in this case was enough to allow passage of legislation.

It would be nice to dismiss this as an occasional lapse, but similar disregard of science and rationalism was revealed by an original member of the President’s panel on bio-ethics, who was fired last week. Elizabeth’s Blackburn NEJM article on her firing from the commission shows that the level of political manipulation of science and objective reasoning in this administration is as bad as the Krugman’s and Moore’s say it is. She notes that of the three replacements for people who were fired from the commission:

    “Not one of the newly appointed members is a biomedical scientist. One, a pediatric neurosurgeon, has championed religious values in public life; another, a political philosopher, has publicly praised Kass’ work (Kass is the commision’s chair who rejects science that “feels wrong to him”) ; the third, a political scientist, has described as “evil” any research in which embryos are destroyed.”

This commission, which makes reccomendations which are crucial for the future of scientific research, has been newly hand-picked purely to shore up the President’s fundamentalist base. And if we are going to continue scientific progress in the tradition of the enlightenment, that is not acceptable no matter what your political philosophy.

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