Results? We don’t need no stinking results
Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:58 AMThe latest Business Week features an article that demonstrates clearly why increased government control over our health-care decisions should scare us.
As the subheadine in the print version of the story declares: “Washington wants to pump big money into so-called disease management, though there’s scant evidence that it works.”
Here’s a key passage:
A decade ago General Electric experimented with a promising approach to employee health care known as disease management. It hired a company to talk with workers in North Carolina who suffered from heart disease. Nurses called to encourage them to take their medication and get moderate exercise as a way to avoid expensive hospital stays. Around the same time, large corporations in many industries began paying for similar disease-management programs to keep employees healthier and cut costs. "It seemed too good to be true," says Dr. Robert S. Galvin, GE's chief medical officer. And, he adds, it was.
During the trial, GE didn't see any compelling evidence that disease management saved money or substantially improved worker health. Galvin decided against expanding the program.
In exercising that caution, he is a lonely figure. Disease management—despite a series of studies finding that it doesn't deliver what it promises—has caught on throughout the business world. Employers and government agencies are spending a total of $2.5 billion a year on the services. Aetna, Cigna, and other insurance giants sell disease management. Healthways, the leading company in the field, has seen its share price double over the past year, as Wall Street anticipates health reform legislation that will provide incentives to adopt the approach. Even with serious doubts hanging over the Obama Administration's campaign for change in the insurance system, Congress is expected to approve some kind of slimmed-down bill that will promote disease management. That perplexes Galvin and other skeptics. At GE, a company known for savvy management of employee benefits, "the idea that you are going to save enough on hospitalizations to save money over and above what the [disease-management] program costs just didn't pan out," he says.
Want a better idea? Get the government out of the business of choosing health-care ideas that sound good and allow consumers to drive the decision-making process.
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