Monday, September 19, 2011

Medical decision making moves to Washington

Every time I re-read a section of Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions I am more impressed with how brilliant it is,how filled with insights and how well written .

A central theme of the second half of the book is described by Sowell in this way: (my bolding)

Even within democratic nations,the locus of decision making has drifted way from the individual,the family and voluntary associations of various thoughts and toward government.And within government, it has moved away from elected officials subject to voter feedback,and toward more insulated governmental institutions, such as bureaucracies and the appointed judiciary.

The ACA (Obamacare) represents a major shift in the locus of decision making regarding medical care. One could consider Obamacare the poster child for that concept. Of course, the locus has already been shifted to a major decree away from the the individual physician and individual patient ( the "dyad" in Don Berwick's quirky terminology ) by the hegemony of third party payers and the virtual single-payer status of government finance health care administered through CMS (Medicare and Medicaid).


A major theme of the first half of his book is the following. One should analyze the decision making processes of institutions in terms of the incentives faced,the constraints in place and the likely outcomes and if the decision makers are immune from feedback mechanisms .Do not look at the "hoped for results" or the mission statements but rather at the mechanics of the decision making process.

Consider those mechanics in the context of ACA and how the myriad details which will make the lofty goals operational will be determined. Various governmental agencies and panels will deliberate and churn out the pages of rules and regulations that physicians and patients will have to live with. For the most part these rules makers will be immune from meaningful feedback but they will will not be immune to lobbying efforts by various special interest groups during the rule making p;process.

Consider the mechanics of the Independent Payment Advisory Board ( IPAB) and how decisions will be made by its fifteen member presidential appointed panel and how lobbyists for various special interests will target this group and likely their efforts will be proportional to the power that IPAB has been given.

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