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Allen, Emerson Introduce Comparative Effectiveness Bill

By Mary Agnes Carey, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

May 15, 2007 -- House members Tom Allen, D-Maine, and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., Tuesday introduced legislation that would increase funding for research to help health care providers and patients decide which drugs, medical devices, and treatments are the most effective.

The bill (HR 2184) authorizes $3 billion over five years for research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which already has done comparative effectiveness reviews on renal artery stenosis, anemia drugs used by cancer patients, and other items. Comparative effectiveness research compares outcomes associated with different therapies for the same condition, allowing providers and patients to avoid ineffective or costly treatments.

The federal government, as well as health insurers and large employers with self-insured plans, would fund the research, the lawmakers said at a news conference.

"As the demand for quality health care services grows, we must get the best value for our health care dollar," Allen said, adding that such research would be better than television and magazine advertisements that often guide consumer choices.

Emerson called the bill "a no-brainer" that should receive wide bipartisan support due to its promise of saving money and improving health care outcomes nationwide.

Bill Vaughan, senior policy analyst at Consumers Union, said that comparative effectiveness research "is how consumers find out what really works and what's good."

Among its provisions, the legislation would establish a comparative effectiveness advisory board appointed by the Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office that includes employers, consumers, health care providers, researchers, and others, to provide input on research priorities and methodologies.

Separately, America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association also have announced proposals for a public-private entity to explore the effectiveness of new and existing medical procedures, drugs, devices, and biologics.

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