Frum Forum, July 28, 2010

Is rationing required to control healthcare costs? No. Not if you define rationing as denying care to a particular person with a specific illness. That is neither necessary nor even possible given our healthcare system or our legal system. Dr. Donald Berwick's appointment as CMS Director may be a hoped-for step towards adopting the British system by some, but it won't work.

Rather, we need a system that focuses on eliminating the moral hazard where neither patients nor doctors have a direct stake in the cost of care. This notion was widely discussed in the debate over Obamacare but seems to have fallen off the political radar screen.

What elements need to be in place to achieve this cost consciousness? First, physicians need to have some of the concerns about the cost of care be embedded in their clinical treatments. This need not pit physicians' interests against patients' interest, although clearly that risk needs to be closely monitored. Risk/benefit decisions now are almost entirely made on the concern of risk to the patient's safety versus the possible uncovering of useful clinical information.

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