A relatively obscure proposal in Obama's economic stimulus plan stirred passions on both sides of the healthcare reform effort. Though Obama prevailed -- securing $1.1 billion for "comparative effectiveness" -- the ferocity of the tussle over a relatively obscure proposal provided a warning for those seeking to reshape the nation's healthcare system.
The comparative-effectiveness issue was supposed to help lay the groundwork for the broader reform effort. But it became a lightning rod for conservative commentators who labeled it a step toward socialized medicine, a line of attack that has doomed every health overhaul effort since World War II.
"I am a little surprised," said Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew E. Altman, a leading reform advocate. "But there are institutional forces in Washington set up to fight these fights. It's what they do." Altman and others had hoped the healthcare overhaul campaign promised by Obama would begin more harmoniously. Many healthcare authorities and policymakers have agreed for years that a better system for tracking how well drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures work could improve the care Americans receive and ultimately save billions of dollars.