Scott Gottlieb reports in the WSJ online on provisions in the fiscal stimulus package now before the House that would restrict the drugs doctors could prescribe based on cost effectiveness. This entails top-down assessments not only of how good the drugs are, but what an additional year of a person's life is worth. What this means is that a doctor would not be allowed to prescribe a remedy that did not pass bureaucratic muster... experimental remedies and such, now available only in the United States, would be available nowhere. Rather ironic, in an environment where some argue in favor of a government controlled health care system because health care is a "right." His article also points the way to a better solution--let private companies that study the effectiveness of treatments publicize the results.
I have not looked at the details of this plan, but it seems to me that especially if it does not leave patients the option of paying out of pocket for alternative treatments, it is ripe for consitutional challenges, under Griswold that protects rights to use contraceptives, for example. It will be interesting if restrictions on speech, prohibiting doctors from telling patients that alternative treatments are available that they are not permitted to prescribe, eventually accompany the the attempt to restrict prescriptions. I understand that this is the case in Germany, to cite one example: Imagine, your child is dying of cancer, an experimental remedy is available that might be effective, but no one is permitted to tell you of it.