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Federal Panel Defines Comparative Effectiveness Research

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, June 29, 2009

The issuance today of recommendations from the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research to Congress and the Obama administration will likely receive close attention from all sides of the healthcare reform debate--particularly over defining the phrase "comparative effectiveness."

The 15-member council was selected in March to propose--with public input--how $1.1 billion could be spent under the economic stimulus legislation to assist federal agencies in coordinating and comparing the effectiveness of health services research. The goal was to save roughly $700 billion (as noted by the Congressional Budget Office last year) by determining what goes into healthcare spending that does not necessarily improve individual healthcare or provide quality healthcare.

However, the term "comparative effectiveness" has become a hot button item in the healthcare reform debate with various legislators and interest groups equating the term with an attempt by the federal government to ration care.

Today's report emphasized how it sought multiple perspectives--including through three public hearings--in how CER should be defined, what criteria were needed for determining which research projects should be a priority, and how a strategic framework should be established to identify gaps and future priorities.

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