By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 9/21/2009 11:03:03 AM ET 2009-09-21T15:03:03

Claim: President Obama believes the government should be 'an honest broker' between patients and doctors.

Much of the debate over the Democrats’ insurance proposals has focused on how active a role the government should have in deciding what treatments patients get, especially if they’re in the Medicaid or Medicare programs where their care is paid for mostly by taxpayers. Should government funds pay for almost every procedure patients and doctors think they need — or should the government steer patients away from certain costly treatments?

Fact or fiction?
Fact. Obama said last May doctors always know more than their patients about particular treatments, implying that this potentially put patients at a disadvantage. "What I think government can do effectively is to be an honest broker in assessing and evaluating treatment options," he said. "And certainly that's true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid, where the taxpayers are footing the bill and we have an obligation to get those costs under control." He said for example, the government might tell a patient in a particular case "the blue pill, which costs half as much as the red pill, is just as effective."

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