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Obscure healthcare measure ignites furor

Feb. 24, 2009 at 2:31 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- An obscure healthcare provision tucked into the $787 billion economic stimulus bill has caused a firestorm of controversy, analysts say.

U.S. President Barack Obama's bill included $1.1 billion for "comparative effectiveness," which backers contend would establish a better system for tracking the performances of drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures. They say it would improve quality of care and ultimately save billions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

But conservatives and healthcare industry supporters quickly pounced by saying the effort promotes socialized medicine -- providing a sobering preview of fierce ideological battles to come should Obama move forcefully to reform the healthcare system, analysts said.

Congressional Republicans began labeling the comparative-effectiveness research provision as a step toward "government-run healthcare." And liberals fought back, with left-wing bloggers excoriating what they called inaccurate and misleading comments from conservative healthcare commentator Betsy McCaughey, the Times said.

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