QUALITY: Senators Call for Comparative Effectiveness Institute
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) have introduced legislation to establish a public-private comparative effectiveness institute, CQ HealthBeat (subscription) reports. Many health policy experts have called for such an initiative as necessary to control costs and improve quality. The senators envision it as a nonprofit private entity, not a federal agency, governed by a public-private board. Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag has estimated that the U.S. could save up to $700 billion annually in health spending if we could avoid treatments that do not lead to the best medical outcomes.
The agency, which they call The Health Care Comparative Effectiveness Research Institute would set national priorities and would work with the NIH, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and private entities to provide peer-reviewed research.
The 21-member board would include private payers, pharmaceutical, device and technology companies; patients and health care consumers; physicians; and agencies administering public health programs.
Chances for passage in the scant time left in this legislative year are low, but the topic is likely to re-emerge prominently next year.
More and more experts in and out of Washington are talking about some form of government-sponsored comparative effectiveness research, although there is no consensus yet on precisely what form it should take. Nor is there consensus on how to translate the research findings into cost and coverage decisions. As Healthbeat noted, "A research agenda that targets the most costly types of treatments and produces findings that shrinks demand for those treatments may not sit well with individual drug, device, and medical professionals affected."