Who Administered Obama's Physical? Not Sharon Begley

Via Politico's Live Pulse, the Archives of Internal Medicine has a great editorial this week calling attention to Obama's bad example setting in his most recent physical (no, not that whole smoking thing). Rita Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, is dismayed that Obama received "2 cutting edge, expensive diagnostic tests that exposed him to a radiation risk while likely providing no benefit to his care." The culprits: a CT scan for coronary calcium (the radiation of which will increase Obama's lifetime likelihood of cancer) and a colon-cancer screening (not recommended for men in the president's age group).

More from Redberg:

Inadvertently, but perhaps fittingly, the reports of Mr. Obama's physical examination reflect some of the key challenges facing health care reform today … Some might defend these tests on the grounds that the President, of all people, deserves the very best our healthcare system can provide, but that would miss the point: more care is not necessarily better care.

In fact, it can be a whole lot worse. As Sharon Begley points out in this week's dead-tree magazine, a whole bunch of are receiving similarly unnecessary care. And, collectively, we waste billions of dollars on both tests and treatments that don't do a whole lot to make us healthier while putting us at risk.

Given that health-care costs are spiraling out of control, why are we spending so much on procedures that do so little? Turns out, it's mostly our fault. Writes Begley:

Consumers, too, are a powerful force for unnecessary medical care. Parents insist the ER do a CT scan on a child who bumped her head; runny-nose patients won't leave their internist without a prescription for antibiotics. "In a busy practice, it's sometimes easier to write the prescription than to talk the mom out of it," says pediatrician Beth Pletcher of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. And the heart patient who doesn't believe that pills could possibly be as effective as surgery? "Angioplasties, stents, and bypass have attained 'entitlement' status," notes Hadler.

Get the rest of Begley's great piece here.