When Ted Kennedy came onto the Senate floor, his colleagues cheered.
He was there to vote on the bill that would prevent a 10.6 percent cut to physicians who treat Medicare patients.
Just before Congress broke for the July 4 holiday, the bill missed the 60 votes needed to pass by just one vote.
Today, Kennedy, who is battling a brain tumor, brought that vote to the Senate floor. “Aye,” the 76-year-old Kennedy said, grinning and making a thumbs-up gesture as he registered his vote.
Meanwhile, it appeared that Republican members of the Senate had been released to vote as they wished after it became apparent that the 60-vote threshold would be met. Pressure from seniors, the AARP, and the AMA had been mounting on members who voted against the bill June 26.
The front page of the New York Times Sunday morning had a don’t miss article on the financial incentives behind using CT scans to look for heart disease. Medicare’s decided in March to begin paying for the test despite no evidence that it saves lives (see this GoozNews post). The lobbying campaign by a newly created physicians guild that invests in CT scanning clinics is discussed in the last few paragraphs of the story. That campaign was aided by "entrepreneurial guidelines" touting the procedure, discussed in this GoozNews post.
Here are the two key quotes from the story:
"It’s incumbent on the community to dispense with the need for evidence-based medicine." –Dr. Harvey Hecht, Manhattan cardiologist and CT scan advocate
"There are a lot of technologies, services and treatments that have not been unequivocally shown to improve health outcomes in a definitive manner."–Dr. Barry Straube, chief medical officer, Medicare
I am frankly a bit surprised at the lack of comment at THCB on the recent orthopedic device
manufacturers’ settlement with the government for concerns about illegal payments to physicians. I would have expected Matthew or Maggie, at least, to be sounding the alarm over the dangers of the private sector in healthcare. The most interesting byproduct of the settlement is the development of a public database where you can search by company to see who is getting the ‘big bucks’.
But like many simple statistics, the data can be misleading.
Let me be clear—paying a surgeon for ‘work’ with the real expectation that he or she will use a specific product is unethical, not to mention illegal (but a problem inherent in our 3rd party paymentsystem in medicine, but that is another issue entirely…).
‘Outrageous’, you say. “Ah- ha—see, all doctors are corrupt and need to be controlled”, others exclaim. But what are the facts? In this case, the surgeon helped develop some of the early hip and knee replacement designs… These designs have served as the basis for literally millions of replaced joints over the last 20 years. He owns a piece of the patent.Is it immoral to get paid for people using a product you work hard to develop? Should Google’s founders still benefit? How about those who own patents on everything vacuum cleaners to hair care products?
Of course they should– because our society encourages innovation by protecting the value of innovation.