Monday, November 23, 2009

Dr. Healy sounds off on health reform

From her commentary published in U.S. News & World Report :
The ground is being laid already, with the announcement by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed body, of new guidelines for mammograms just days ago. Such a board of experts, composed mainly of primary care, prevention, public health, and epidemiology experts, would recommend the list of preventive services covered in the post-health-reform insurance plan that all would have no choice but to buy. Until now, the government's task force has been one voice among several medical groups issuing sometimes conflicting prevention guidelines, leaving room for patient-doctor choice. But in an elevated role under health reform, the federal preventive task force's declarations would carry greater force and have an economic impact on everyone.
With the same facts, there are sharp differences in interpretation. Many health experts and economists in armchairs wearing green eyeshades are willing, say, to accept a 20 percent reduction in cancers found if costs are cut in half. But doctors see before them the mothers and grandmothers, sisters and daughters who benefit from early detection of cancer; they see the husbands who still have their wives, the children who still have their moms. They do know the science and statistics, and they know when to pull back and respect a patient's wishes not to have a study or treatment. But they're all too aware that early therapy is easier and more likely to bring a happier outcome.
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