Medicare Cuts Can Actually Help Patients

The trouble is, Washington won't make the right cuts: opinion
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 23, 2011 12:45 PM CDT
Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Jeffrey B. Liebman: Medicare Cuts Can Actually Help Patients
A doctor examines a Medicare patient.   (Getty Images)

There’s no way around it: Medicare will be cut. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing for patients, write experts and former White House advisers Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Jeffrey B. Liebman in the New York Times. “Smart cuts eliminate spending on medical tests, treatments, and procedures that don’t work—or that cost significantly more than other treatments while delivering no better health outcomes,” they write. Sounds like common sense, but “the list of procedures Medicare pays for that are proven to have no benefit goes on and on.”

Emanuel and Liebman offer three examples, including Avastin, which is covered at a cost of $88,000 per year, per patient, even though the FDA determined it is not effective as a breast cancer treatment. Cutting payments for treatments like those will not only save money, but protect patients. But instead, Washington is focused on three types of “ill-conceived cuts”: The type that cuts spending across the board, the type that simply shifts costs, and the type that reduces current spending but consequently increases future costs. “The sad truth,” they conclude, is elected officials will never be able to make smart cuts—and the responsibility for doing so should fall to medical providers instead. Click for their full argument. (Read more Medicare stories.)

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