Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Legislating Medical Care

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Sep• 28•07

A press release from Senator Ron Wyden sent to me at 7am this morning states the following:

Working to enhance screening and prevention of childhood type 2 diabetes, U.S Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) today announced that an amendment giving states $15 million to combat the disease has been included in the final conference version of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill (S-CHIP).  Wyden is the amendment’s sponsor.  The S-CHIP conference report passed the Senate yesterday evening and will now be sent to the President for his consideration.
 
“This amendment gives states the power to develop creative solutions to the closely related problems of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes in children,â€? said Wyden.  “Children who develop type 2 diabetes are saddled with health problems for life.  By investing in prevention, we can not only save lives, we can make a greater impact with less money.â€?

Sounds like a great program…but is it really?  The question is, do we want federal politicians legislating medical care?  Certain politicians, often with the best of intentions in mind, will have a pet disease at which they will want to throw money.  Type 2 diabetes is a serious problem.  However, it is the most pressing issue?  Are there other medical problems that need funding more urgently?  Would providing funding for other medical conditions result in a bigger marginal improvement in health outcomes?

Without looking at this situation holistically, a federal health spending budget is put together in a piecemeal fashion.  Diseases which receive more media attention or have stricken relatives of politicians will likely receive more funding even if this is not the best use of our tax dollars.

Along the same lines, in 2004 California approved $3 billion for stem-cell research (see MSNBC article).  While stem cell research funds are certainly needed, $3 billion may be excessive.  Directing so much cash to one cause may siphon off research funds for other worthy diseases.

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  1. David Jensen says:

    I doubt that the $3 billion involved in California’s effort will siphon off funding for other research efforts. That money is coming from state general obligation bonds, which would not have been issued without passage of Prop. 71. You could argue that because that money is available, it frees resources that would have otherwise been sought for stem cell research. For more on the California effort, check out the the California Stem Cell Report, californiastemcellreport.blogspot.com.

  2. […] A press release from Senator Ron Wyden sent to me at 7am this morning states the following: Working to enhance screening and prevention of childhood type 2 diabetes, U.S Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) today announced that an amendment giving states $15 million to combat the disease has been included in the final conference version of the […] Read more… […]

  3. jay says:

    What exactly is the money to be spent on? It’s not as if the causes of the increase in childhood obesity and diabetes are mysterious and in need of research. Getting parents to enforce diet and social organization to facilitate increased physical activity are what is needed, but easier said than done. That said, throwing money at the problem is unlikely to solve it. Forty-odd years ago Pres. Kennedy started a physical fitness movement and a movement to improve science and math education via leadership.
    Diseases, like other problems, get support from politicians as a gesture or as a reward. AIDS research became a money priority as a reward for political support from the gay community when it was mainly a gay disease. Focussed political action did the job. That is not a recipe for allocating society’s scarce resources where they will do society the most good, but rather where they will do the most good for the sponsoring politicians. NIH research grants are on a downward trend, and money spent on one project is necessarily withheld from a competing project.