From the power-corrupts-and-absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely department in today’s Wall Street Journal: An extraneous and last-minute provision inserted in the New Year’s Day fiscal-cliff legislation sharply cut Medicare payments for Elekta AB, a Swedish maker of radiation tools used to battle brain tumors.
Turns out that Elekta competitor Varian Medical Systems, of Palo Alto, Calif., had persuaded Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to insert the provision. Varian has a long-standing relationship with Reid. He had secured federal funding for the company to work with the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies at the University of Las Vegas on technologies that could x-ray cargo shipments.
The legislation overturned the determination of federal administrators, based on the performance characteristics of the Elekta and Varian technologies, regarding appropriate reimbursement rates for each. As the federal government extends its regulatory choke hold on the American health care system, we can expect to see a lot more special dealing like this. Thus, America continues its inexorable march from an innovation-based health care system to a rent-seeking health care system.