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04-02-2010, 11:27 AM
True or false? Top 7 health care fears
Is the IRS going to hunt you down? Will your doc have a waiting line?

The sweeping health care overhaul signed into law his month by President Barack Obama is more than 2,000 pages long and has been dissected by analysts, politicians and pundits. It’s no wonder that some consumers are confused – and perhaps frightened – about how the law might affect them. Some concerns were raised during the congressional debate or have been swirling around the Internet.

Kaiser Health News checked out some of the most common claims:

1. Comparative effectiveness research will lead to the rationing of care for the elderly.

Verdict? Not true.

The law creates a nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute charged with examining the "relative health outcomes, clinical effectiveness, and appropriateness" of different medical treatments by evaluating existing studies and conducting its own. The institute would be governed by a 19-member board that includes patients, doctors, hospitals, drug makers, device manufacturers, insurers, payers, government officials and health experts.

The law states that the institute does not have the power to mandate or even endorse coverage rules or reimbursement for any particular treatment. Medicare may take the institute’s research into account when deciding what procedures it will cover, so long as the new research is not the sole justification and the agency allows for public input.

This is a shift from Congress’ position when it created the Medicare Part D drug benefit in 2003; back then it banned any use of comparative effectiveness research in determining what would be covered.

Many experts believe that as health costs continue to mushroom, Medicare and private payers will incorporate the institute’s work into their coverage decisions. Others say history suggests that’s unlikely. “The graveyards of Washington, D.C., are littered with government agencies that tried to do comparative effectiveness research,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.

--Jordan Rau