Back to the Future: Can Congress Resurrect an Independent Technology Assessment Entity?

By Stanton R. Mehr
Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Ever since Congress withdrew funding for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in the early 1990s, governments have searched for help in evaluating the benefits of new technologies and whether they should be covered in the public and private sectors. Private organizations once looked to this organization’s decisions before deciding on reimbursement for their own health plan’s membership or insured population. Now a bill is circulating through the legislature to fund a new center, the Health Care Comparative Effectiveness Research Institute, which would perform largely the same function as the old OTA.

Sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the proposal would establish a public-private partnership to create the Institute. Funds would be paid through fees from Medicare and private insurers, estimated at $300 million over five years.

Although this proposal may not reach the Senate floor for debate before the legislative term ends, it is likely that a Democratic-controlled legislature will take up the cause in 2009. In a written statement, Senator Baucus said, “Doctors and patients need reliable, unbiased information about the effectiveness of treatments to determine the best care possible, but right now, data are scarce and unorganized. This bill would advance the process of reviewing and producing valuable information and making it available to health care providers and to all Americans.”

DoBias M. Bill would create independent research institute. Modern Healthcare. August 1, 2008.

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