August 24, 2012

Buerkle's Autoimmune Disease Bureaucrats

Recently my Congresswoman, Ann Marie Buerkle, introduced HR6218, the Mary Colella Autoimmune Disease Awareness Act of 2012.  The bill, named for her late sister, is to increase awareness and education about autoimmune disesases.  According to her press release, the bill will require
an assessment of national progress on autoimmune disease research, an update of the national strategic plan, and recommendations that can be used to develop a national curriculum on autoimmune disease.
Under the bill, there will be an Autoimmune Diseased Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee to formulate
recommendations for the coordination of government and private programs and activities relating to autoimmune diseases.
 Apparently this is not the first time that auotimmune diseases have caught the attention of someone in Congress.  It looks like Buerkle's bill amends another one which also set out a Coordinating Committee and similar responsibilities.  One of the differences is the make-up of the Committee.  Previously, the Committee was composed generically of
the directors or their designees of each of the national research institutes involved in research with respect to autoimmune diseases and representatives of all other Federal departments whose programs involve health functions or responsibilities relative to such diseases, including the CDC and FDA. 
Under Buerkle's version, the Committee is more specific:
The Assistant Secretary for Health, who shall serve as Chair; the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; the Commissioner of Food and Drugs; the Director of the NIH; the Director of the CDC, the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration; the Secretary of Education; the Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of Veterans Affairs; the Commissioner of Social Security; and such other Federal officials as the Secretary may designate or invite, as appropriate, to serve on the Coordinating Committee.
 What is the Committee supposed to do?  Well, we know it's charged with that 'national strategic plan'to coordinate public and private programs', which is to include, among other things
an assessment of the ability of health care providers to identify and diagnose autoimmune diseases properly; an assessment of the quality of post-graduate continuing education programs on autoimmune diseases, and recommendation on education and continuing education on autoimmune diseases for health care providers.
National assessments on the ability of health care providers? Recommending rules on required education for health care providers?  Sure feels like this is going to cause additional burdens, costs, and uncertainty on small businesses such as medical providers. 
And it may lead to additional federally mandated insurance benefits which then have to be implented, administered and adhered to by larger employers. That may not be the intent, but this is how it all starts.
From that perspective, this bill seems counter-productive to Buerkle's goals as a limited-government Republican - and one who believes we don't need bureaucrats involved in health care.

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