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I Like My Funds Extra Slushy

Bureaucracies, in general, like acronyms, but the combination of acronyms and money make for a government love affair.

Readers of this blog are aware of my fixation on transparency. Readers of my other blog, Again? Really?, know that I am particularly offended by slush funds, large amounts of taxpayer money redirected by government entities to surreptitiously benefit pet causes or personal gain. The slush finds of a local government might be in the thousands or possibly a million dollars or so.  It takes the federal government to create a billion dollar boondoggle.

Insured Americans will be paying a new fee as of Oct. 1, 2012. Anthem Blue Cross sent a warning announcement last week to advise us that they will be adding the charge to our bills. The Affordable Care Act established the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to explore the effectiveness, risks, and benefits of medical treatments. This study is also known as Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). PCORI is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization supported by a trust fund that is financed in part by fees from health plan insurers.

The fees are $1 per covered person in the first year.  $2 per person in the second year.  And after two years? The $2 per person per year will be adjusted for medical inflation.

Bureaucracies, in general, like acronyms, but the combination of acronyms and money make for a government love affair.

Comparative Effectiveness Research came into prominence as part of President Obama’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. $1.1 Billion was allocated.

• $300 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
• $400 million for the National Institutes of Health.
• $400 million for the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

This wasn’t a beginning, middle and end. This was seed money.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) explained that CER “compares treatments and strategies to improve health. This information is essential for clinicians and patients to decide on the best treatment. It also enables our nation to improve the health of communities and the performance of the health system.”

Gosh that sounds good.

According to the National Cancer Institute, CER has both its proponents and detractors. One key issue was brought up by Jeffrey Kindler, CEO of Pfizer, who who wondered whether the results from Comparative Effectiveness studies would be “automatically linked” to insurance coverage decisions.  In other words, will healthcare in the future become one size fits almost all and too bad about the rest.

In his paper “Comparative Effectiveness Research and Kindred Delusions”, Norton Hadler, MD expanded on the difference between efficacy and effectiveness.

I have nothing to add to that debate.  My only question is “How much?” How much money, your money in taxes and your money in fees, are we spending on this and who is getting it?

Billions of dollars funneled through the Department of Health and Human Services became even more of an issue last week when the Government Accountability Office (Yes, that GAO) found that the Obama administration was wasting $8.3 billion on a questionable Medicare program.

As part of a “Demonstration Project”, HHS has created an experimental program to study the effects of money on the insurance market. This experiment is to award bonuses to high quality managed care Medicare policies known as Medicare Advantage. High quality, like intellectual honesty, was one of the first victims of this scheme.

To make a long story short, the money, most paid out in the next three years, covers the cuts that were made in these popular programs by the president’s health care law. The PPACA took money away, but Health and Human Services put the money back in through the back door.

The independent Medicare Payment Advisory Commission panned the misdirection. The Republicans think that this looks suspiciously like a re-election driven decision. The New York Post didn’t bury the lead. They labeled it a political slush fund.

What we are talking about is money. We know where it comes from, US.  What we don’t know is where it is going and why. Unlimited funds funneled through Kathleen Sebelius and her politicized Department of Health and Human Services are sure to arouse suspicions. Add to this an $8.3 billion experiment and you have the potential for a real problem.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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