Comparative effectiveness principle or interest?

Comparative effectiveness would be advancing whether government was involved in health care or not. Insurers and employers want this information badly.

Whenever the subject turns here to comparative effectiveness, principled conservatives howl. (Picture from eHealth Initiative story on comparative effectiveness.)

It's socialist. It's communist. It's government getting between you and your doctor. It's European, Canadian and foreign. It's French.

Is it? Or is studying whether new regimens are really better than old, then using the old when it's better, all about self-interest?

The Wall Street Journal reports how drug and device makers worked to gut a provision in the Obama Stimulus aimed at studying comparative effectiveness.

Rather than do this directly, they worked through a group called the Partnership for Patient Care, whose members include advocates on research into dread disease, but whose steering committee they control.

There is some logic here. Pushing patients to the highest-profit therapies keeps research budgets high. Stoking the research fires keeps hope for cures alive.

But at what cost? That's what comparative effectiveness seeks to measure, what it seeks to eliminate as waste.

So far the press is calling this an ideological battle, folks like Paul Krugman on one side, like Betsy McCaughey on the other. But there are cracks in Betsy's wall, as this post at KevinMD shows.

Those cracks are self-interest coming through.

This is a fight between interests. Those who pay for health care on the one side, those who supply the goods on the other.

Comparative effectiveness would be advancing whether government was involved in health care or not. Insurers and employers want this information badly. There is really no good reason to deny it to them, except by muddying the waters and making it political.

So let me ask conservatives this. If you were sick, and you were paying the bills, would you want the most effective treatment, or just the newest and most costly?