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A standard feature of government-run health care is the dilatory adoption of new medicines and technologies. In Great Britain, for example, patients often have to go outside the NHS to access cutting edge treatments.
Sadly, as the NYT reports, the segment of American health care controlled by Washington suffers from the same bureaucratic inertia. The procedure discussed in the article is “catheter-based ablation,” which is used to treat atrial fibrillation.
Advocates of the procedure say it is less invasive than open-heart surgery — the only proven method for curing many patients — and in the long run more cost-effective than drugs, which generally offer temporary relief.
But many retired Americans are unable to benefit from this procedure because Medicare won’t pay for it. Why?
Federal regulators … have not approved as safe and effective any of the devices used. So hospitals and doctors are finding it difficult to be fully reimbursed for the procedure’s cost.
So, what’s the problem? Is this some dangerous experimental procedure? Nope. It’s just that the bureaucrats are behind the curve:
This is one of those areas where the practice of medicine has moved faster than the approval process,” said Daniel G. Schultz, head of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the Food and Drug Administration.
And who is hurt by the government’s glacial approval process? The patient. While the apparatchiks try to catch up, people will very likely die.
Government-run health care—coming to a hospital near you.
+ May 2007
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