Back to News on the Health Care Front

By on January 18, 2012

Time to leave the blood bath in South Carolina for the moment. The blood there is boiling and the battle is apt to go on as long as PAC money keeps it pumping. These candidates are ready to beat each other into insensibility. The GOP ought to think about the possibility of their nominee arriving DOA at the Convention September 1. I know what the daily polls show— a close race with the President— but this is January and all America is focused on football play-offs and the Oscar race. Many Americans would not notice a DOA on the couch next to them, to say nothing of one in South Carolina.


There is news to report of consequence to health care reform: the Obama Administration is going to oblige drug firms to disclose money paid to doctors in an attempt to oblige more transparency and reduce financial conflicts of interest. All this should oblige greater efficiency, a watchword of reformers these days. This action will extend to implantable devices as well, like heart valves and stents and artificial joints. Specialists who do procedures, surgical or otherwise, do control the expenditures of large sums of money. Drug companies and suppliers of medical hardware have been very good about wining and dining these folks in ways that can escape scrutiny: honoraria, research grants, conference speeches in exotic locales and other perks. The list gets creative. And the toys get expensive. Robots used in the operating rooms of America go for upwards of $1 million a piece.

The Obama people are right to demand this. For most patients medicine is still a black box. Many still rely on the integrity of their doctor, and that assessment largely comes from bedside manner, sheets of paper on the wall, word of mouth, or social standing in the community. Transactions with suppliers are invisible to them. The government has been chewing around this problem for a decade under the banner of Medicare ‘compliance’ and Office of the Inspector General investigations. This is a bolder move.

But why stop there? Many doctors these days belong to organizations that have a lot to do with some of these decisions. Large medical purchasing consortiums, hospital chains, practice management organizations, insurance companies  and others are silently in the same picture. Their roles in these transactions must also be transparent and that will be a lot harder to police. At least the doctor has to look the patient in the eye before he or she recommends a product for which there was a ‘consideration.’ The desk jockey that engineered the deal somewhere up on the 23rd floor of corporate headquarters does not.

Making those who profit from these expensive transactions report publicly is an honorable pursuit, but why settle for half a loaf? Many, many parties in these arrangements are scrupulous, honest people who do care about the outcome because they all are apt to become patients themselves one day. But laws are made for those who don’t. And how do you identify them without help?

Tom Godfrey

About Tom Godfrey

2 comments on “Back to News on the Health Care Front

  1. Caroline Stewart on said:

    Give the American public a little more credit that this. A DOA on the couch? Give them at least two days before passing judgement. And that is Oscar with a capital ‘O’ according to my sources in Hollywood.

    • TGodfrey on said:

      Right you are about Oscar. As to the DOA, I’m talking about two days just noticing the body is there and not reaching for the chip bowl. TG

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