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J Am Coll Radiol. 2011 Oct;8(10):687-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.06.013.

Unintended consequences of health care legislation.

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Department of Radiology, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114-2620, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Am Coll Radiol. 2011 Dec;8(12):881.


Unintended consequences of health care legislation threaten the financial and social well-being of the United States. Examples of major legislation resulting in unintended and unforeseen consequences include the Social Security Amendments Acts of 1989 and 1993 (the Stark laws), the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, and the Social Security Amendments Act of 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid). Each of these has had unintended financial and social outcomes. Spending for Medicare and Medicaid now equals an unsustainable 23% of the federal budget. Major reasons for unintended consequences include failure to appreciate the complexity of the issues, the open-ended nature of medical advances with attendant increases in costs, the inducement of change in behaviors in response to legislation, and the moral hazard of people spending other people's money. Actions that should be considered to avoid unintended consequences include more involvement of health professionals in the design of legislation, the inclusion of triggers to target review of legislatively defined programs, and the setting of time limits for sun-setting legislation. The ACR has played an important advocacy role and should continue to offer input to legislators, federal policymakers, and other stakeholders. Many opportunities exist to address the current financial situation by reducing the amount of unnecessary care delivered. Both major US political parties need to find the political will to compromise to chart the way forward. Some level of sacrifice is likely to be necessary from patients and providers and other stakeholders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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