Rep. Issa on the end of “death panels”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has just been selected by his colleagues to be the next chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has some interesting things to say about controlling Medicare spending, as reported in the Wall Street Journal today:

Republicans should talk less about “death panels” and more about cutting the overuse of expensive medical procedures, said a powerful GOP lawmaker [Rep. Issa] who has the health industry in his sights. […]

Under current rules, Medicare cannot consider cost-effectiveness in its coverage decisions. But Mr. Issa said it may be time to consider costs as well as efficacy, as long as medical decisions are made by doctors, not by “bureaucrats” in government.

“My committee can help by looking at whether the government is answering and informing about the lowest-cost, least-invasive procedures,” he said.

Cost-effectiveness became the center of controversy during the debate leading up to the passage of the Democrats’ health-care bill in March. Some critics of the bill claimed the Obama administration’s plans could lead to government “death panels.”

Mr. Issa said he shares the view of his colleague, Rep. Charles Boustany (R., La.), a surgeon. Citing Mr. Boustany, Mr. Issa said that “medical panels of people who care about what’s best for their patients” and about appropriate procedures “is good science and good medicine.”

“Republicans have to step back from the words ‘death panels,’ ” Mr. Issa said.

Can I make a small suggestion? How about we just stop using the “D.P.” words altogether? Let’s drop the pejorative use of “rationing” (the “R” word) too. I’d also like to see “bureaucrats” (the “B” word) put to rest. (Face it, once those doctors start making coverage decisions they’ll be called “bureaucrats” anyway.)

Just cut right to the meat of it. We have to spend smarter and wiser. We’ve got to use our brains and sound research to inform spending choices.

Let’s put it this way: we can be stupid about this and spend our way into oblivion or we can be smart and stop wasting money on stuff that doesn’t do much good. (I know this is easier said than done, but let’s at least agree that it’d be a wise direction to move.) Kudos to Rep. Issa for saying as much. Let’s see what he does in his new position as chair of a powerful committee.

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