New Briefs on Health Reform Discuss Comparative Effectiveness Research, Women's Access to Care

By Rachel Walden — October 7, 2009

We have written in recent months about the inclusion of money for comparative effectiveness research (CER) in the stimulus bill, the call for comments as to priorities for that research, and the subsequent list of priorities for funding of that research.

Comparative effectiveness research and the associated process isn’t always easy to explain, though, and was the focus of some drama when the stimulus bill was debated, with some arguing that the research would lead to rationing of care.

To help understand the topic, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released a brief on the topic, Explaining Health Reform:  What is Comparative Effectiveness Research?. The document reviews the purpose of CER, recent federal actions, and where/how it is included in proposed health reform legislation. It also provides discussion of key questions such as whether this type of research should include cost (in addition to clinical efficacy), how the results will be disseminated, and how those results might affect coverage decisions and health care costs.

The National Partnership for Women and Families is also addressing this topic with their Myths & Facts about Comparative Effectiveness Research [PDF]. It responds to some ideas about CER such as whether the research might lead to rationing of health care, “one size fits all” medicine, or exclusion of special or minority populations, and whether drug and device makers might lose the incentive to create new treatments.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has also released a second brief on health care reform, Health Reform: Implications for Women’s Access to Coverage and Care. It discusses women’s access to insurance through various avenues and benefits of importance to women including preventive, reproductive health, and long-term care, providing relevant information about the current state of women’s access to care and where improvements might be made via health reform.

Full disclosure: one project I contribute to in my work is funded through the AHRQ, an agency which receives some of the comparative effectiveness dollars included in the stimulus package.

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