If the CMS were empowered to negotiate for the patients it serves, it would not only reduce Medicare spending but also slow the growth of health care costs. If it could hold the line and pay only for drugs, devices and treatments that conform to professional guidelines, it would also improve the care that Medicare patients receive. Equally important, scrapping the "anything goes" approach of today would encourage America's drug and device manufacturers to focus their efforts on producing innovative products that cost less but do more.
The core problem is this: While many worried that Medicare would lead to a government takeover of health care, the health care industry has been quietly increasing its influence over government.
Removing the constraints on Medicare would not only lead to lower prices at the drugstore, hospital and doctor's office, it could spark a new era of health care innovation. That would represent a win for patients, a win for free enterprise and a win for the U.S. economy.
Art Kellerman, a physician, is a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corp.