Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tim Scott's Tireless Battle Against Cost-Effectiveness

When I get my weekly email from Senator Tim Scott, I groan and debate whether I have the stomach to open it.  The power went out for several hours last night, and I got a bad night's sleep, so let's attribute my weakness to that.

If you can't find "Obama" in one of Scott's weekly emails, it means you haven't opened it.  One of his handlers told him that bringing forth the President's name has the same effect as Mark Sanford's successful run against Nancy Pelosi in 2013.  And Tim Scott does listen to his handlers.

This week the intrepid senator is waging war against the "Part B Drug Payment Model."  In Scott's words,

 Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model
The Obama Administration’s “Part B Drug Payment Model” proposed rule disrupts care for vulnerable patients-such as those with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and other serious medical conditions. I, along with a number of my colleagues,have called for the withdrawal of the proposal because it will only hurt Medicare beneficiaries by increasing costs and decreasing the quality of care and patients’ choices.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not consult with outside experts or those with real-world experience when coming up with this proposal and in my opinion that is a recipe for disaster. I was joined by my colleagues on the Finance Committee in writing CMS Acting Administrator Slavitt – you can read the letter here.

Are you scared?  Because the CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) has a different take on this proposal than do Scott and his evil republican colleagues.  The purpose of this proposed model is to test the ways in which out-patient administration of drugs by physicians are reimbursed, rewarding the use of the more effective drugs with more favorable rates:

  Today’s proposal is part of the Administration’s broader strategy to encourage better care, smarter spending, and healthier people by paying for what works, unlocking health care data, and finding new ways to coordinate and integrate care to improve quality.

In other words, the purpose of this test is to determine which treatments have more positive outcomes, and to provide financial incentives for physicians' use of those drugs.

Now if you distrust the government the way, say, Tim Scott distrusts the government, you will make the kind of hysterical assumptions that frankly, he is hoping you will make.  If you have a healthy distrust of government, you will wonder why Scott is so vehemently opposed to this proposal.  Here it is in two words:

Corporate Profit

It is the single most fevered purpose of Tea Partiers like Scott to push government out of the way of profit.  This is why we have a system in which the government is not allowed to negotiate better prices for Medicare.  The thought that the government might encourage more effective outcomes means that profit will be taking a back seat to patient care.  And it is this that Scott and fellow greedmongers in the House are fighting.

Scott lies when he claims that CMS did not consult with "outside experts or those with real-world experience."  Unless of course he is referring to the pharmaceutical industry, which does in fact have real-world experience -- in maximizing profit.  I can think of no better way than to study the effectiveness of treatment than to study outcome.  This is an honest-to-gods scientific method, and this is why our anti-science republican House is against it.

Living here in the bastion of anti-science and paranoia, you will no doubt hear someone at some point complain that the government is going to try to take away their Medicare drugs.  Please inform them that the reason Medicare costs are so high is that the pharmaceutical industry has been allowed to control drug costs, and the government has not been allowed to give incentives to doctors for more effective treatments.  You will hear people complain about drug costs out of control, but they will idiotically blame, not just the government, but the evil Obama.  You should explain that this is because republicans like Tim Scott have voted to prevent the government from having any input into drug prices, and so the pharmaceutical industry pushes drugs based on profit rather than outcome.

Scott would like all his frightened, angry, uninformed constituents to support him in his demand that this proposal be withdrawn.  Don't let him get away with it.  Let others know that this is the way to get better health care, by studying what works and encouraging its practice.

It is called quality control, something republicans have thwarted for as long as they have been the party of corporate power.

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