NY Times Inadvertently Blows Hole In ObamaCare Screenings
I’m sure they didn’t mean to:
This month, nine major medical specialty groups published a list of 45 tests and procedures that often have no clear benefit for patients and can cause harm — CT scans for simple headaches, for example, and X-rays for routine lower back pain. You don’t often hear calls from doctors for fewer tests and procedures.
And that’s too bad. Many of them have been oversold, their benefits exaggerated and their harms ignored.
Oversold, yes. Especially by the Obama Administration:
The NYT story continues:
Certainly, the rationale behind screening seems obvious. The earlier cancers are diagnosed, the more often lives will be saved, right? With enough screening, we might even stop cancer.
If only. Finding cancer early isn’t enough. To reduce cancer deaths, treatment must work, yet it doesn’t always. Second, it must work better when started earlier. But for some cancers, later treatment works as well. (That’s why there is no big push for testicular cancer screening — it is usually curable at any stage.)
And some of the worst cancers aren’t detected by screening. They appear suddenly, between regular screenings, and are difficult to treat because they are so aggressive.
And too much screening can cause harm to the patient:
The most familiar harm is a false alarm: The screening test is abnormal, but in the end there is no cancer. False alarms matter because the follow-up tests needed to rule out cancer can be painful, dangerous and scary.
But overdiagnosis — the detection of cancers never destined to cause problems — is arguably the most important harm of screening. Some cancers grow so slowly that they would never cause symptoms or death. When screening finds these cancers, it turns people into patients unnecessarily.
Since there is no reliable way to know whether a screening-detected cancer represents overdiagnosis, most people seek treatment. People on the receiving end of overdiagnosis can only be harmed — sometimes seriously — by unnecessary surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. While it’s hard to precisely estimate the amount of overdiagnosis that occurs, most experts agree that it’s an inevitable consequence of screening.
In other words, one of the most often cited benefits of ObamaCare — “free” screenings (“free” in quotes because the patient ends up paying for them anyway, usually in higher premiums) — just don’t do that much good, and definitely can cause harm, even to treatments that aren’t necessary and may cause other health issues, like the nausea from chemotherapy.
One by one, the pro-ObamaCare arguments are being proven false. Amazingly, this time the Bible of leftism, the New York Times, helps bust this one.