PATIENTS Act seeks to restore doctor-patient relationship

Derek Hunter Contributor
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Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has introduced one of the most important pieces of health care legislation of this Congress: the Preserving Access to Targeted, Individualized, and Effective New Treatments and Services (PATIENTS) Act of 2011, which would bar the federal government from using “comparative effectiveness research” — a tool used by socialized health care systems to dictate treatment based on cost rather than effectiveness. Comparative effectiveness research gives bureaucrats the excuse they need to deny coverage of a health care treatment or micromanage the practice of medicine.

President Obama’s 2009 “stimulus” bill provided $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, but did not include the necessary safeguards to prevent the research from being used to ration health care. Obamacare creates an entire institute that is dedicated to CER. Medicare and Medicaid can use that institute’s research in determining which treatments they will cover.

We have already begun to see the initial signs that cost will begin to play a role in determining which drugs patients will have access to. The FDA is preparing to deny breast cancer patients access to Avastin because of the drug’s cost.

The Kyl bill allows the government to make recommendations for specific drugs and treatments but leaves the ultimate decision up to doctors and patients. There are thousands of breast cancer patients who are classified as “super responders.” While some women might not get the same results, these women have lived for years with late-stage breast cancer and credit the drug for their survival. The legislation would protect these women and ensure their continued survival.

Upon the introduction of the legislation, Senator Kyl said, “We should stick to a basic principle that all Americans should be able to choose the doctor, hospital, and health plan of their choice. No Washington bureaucrat should interfere with that right, or substitute the government’s judgment for that of a physician.”

Kyl was joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who said, “Doctors should have as much good information as possible when treating their patients, but the government shouldn’t use this information to insert itself into the doctor-patient relationship.”

Another cosponsor of the bill, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), said, “American families and their physicians should make decisions about medical treatments, not Washington bureaucrats. This bill ensures Americans have access to the care they need, from the doctor they want.”

“Accessing affordable, quality health care is the main challenge facing American patients. However, we cannot fix this problem with a government agency that allows Washington bureaucrats to take the place of physicians,” said Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). “Instead, we have to reconnect consumer purchase with payment and work towards reforms that empower consumers, lower costs, and protect the doctor-patient relationship.”

Senator Coburn is still a practicing physician, so he knows a thing or two about the importance of the doctor-patient relationship.

But the bureaucrats charged with writing the regulations for Obamacare are not physicians; they are paper-pushers charged with cutting money from the bottom line. And it is an immediate need; they have no concern for how spending money on the proper treatment can save money or lives in the long run. Unlike a doctor, who can monitor a patient’s progress, or lack there of, and adjust accordingly with different treatments that might work better for that particular patient, common sense has no button on a calculator.

Defending the doctor-patient relationship is a critical front in the battle against government-run health care. More importantly, having as many arrows in a doctor’s quiver to combat any illness is the best chance for recovery AND cost savings. If someone can be cured or have their disease successfully managed, they cost less. Well, they cost less unless they die, then they cost nothing. That’s the ultimate cost-saving measure. But no one wants that, even if it is the end result of number-crunching in a vacuum.

The Kyl bill will help save lives by keeping the doctor-patient relationship as sacred as possible and, therefore, should be a priority for the House and Senate leadership. A presidential veto, which is likely, would be unconscionable.

Derek Hunter is a Washington-based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter