WSJ fails to disclose conflict of interest in health care op-ed


The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by radiologist Mark E. Klein criticizing President Obama over the Medicare board's decision not to cover virtual colonoscopies. But Klein performs virtual colonoscopies at his Washington, D.C.-area practice, and the Journal did not disclose his interest in whether Medicaid covers them.

Journal publishes op-ed criticizing Obama over coverage for virtual colonoscopies

From Klein's March 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed:

On Sunday President Barack Obama underwent a complete medical examination, which included a screening for pre-cancerous polyps in his colon. If detected, such polyps would be removed before they became dangerous. The screening the president and his doctors chose was a virtual colonoscopy -- a relatively new, high-tech exam that uses a CT scan to visualize the entire colon.

Last May, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided virtual colonoscopies would not be covered by Medicare.


In 2008, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, issued a report that found that there was not enough evidence to determine whether Medicare should cover virtual colonoscopies. Medicare based its decision not to cover the virtual exam on the task force's findings.

Why did the task force refuse to endorse a procedure enthusiastically recommended by numerous physician organizations, the American Cancer Society, and the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Center, a group not anxious to add to the cost of health care? The task force accepted that virtual colonoscopy could accurately diagnose colon polyps. However, according to their report, the experts on the panel feared that the CT-based technique could identify possible abnormalities outside of the colon that might lead to further testing and additional costs. They worried about a theoretical and unsubstantiated risk.


Of course, the problem is that Americans over the age of 65 do not currently enjoy the same option. They cannot have a virtual colonoscopy unless they are willing to pay out of their own pockets for it. You can imagine their surprise to learn that the president had personally chosen a procedure that his own administration had decided did not warrant Medicare coverage.

This is one reason why Americans fear a government-backed health plan. They have been told that such a plan would not affect the availability of high-tech diagnostic tests and treatment, but their eyes tell them otherwise.

Journal did not disclose Klein's ties to virtual colonoscopy procedures

Klein performs virtual colonoscopies at his practice. The Journal identified Klein only as "a practicing radiologist at Washington Radiology Associates," and "on the clinical faculty of the George Washington University Medical Center." But Klein's biography at Washington Radiology Associates, P.C. says he "has gained recognition in the Washington metropolitan area for his work in the use of virtual colonoscopy for the early detection of colon cancer." The Washington Radiology website also promotes its virtual colonoscopy procedures.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform, Medicare
Wall Street Journal
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.