"Waste" is a word we've heard much of in recent days. In the case of health care, the news was informative, but in our government, it was disgusting.

On Thursday, doctors from some of the top medical societies in our nation, including the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, said Americans are getting too much health care when it comes to common medical testing, and that up to a third of annual health care costs for "routine tests" and procedures are unnecessary.

This includes repeat screenings for low-risk patients – those who don't have a family history and whose repeat screenings have routinely come back negative for 10 years.

The "Choosing Wisely" initiative from the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation said that unnecessary procedures not only drive up health care costs, but they can also put patients at risk.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, claims that physicians shouldn't order a CT-scan or "indiscriminately prescribe antibiotics" for sinus infections.

According to one report on healthy adults, almost half of the 1,200 surveyed received screening tests that were considered "very unlikely or unlikely to have benefits that outweigh the risks."

A study published last year revealed that 80 percent of doctors claimed that they ordered tests that may have been unnecessary over the fear that they could be sued for malpractice.

Dr. Christine K. Cassel, president and CEO of the ABIM Foundation, offered sound advice by stating that it's important for doctors and patients to converse over what care is really needed.

"We're not saying they should never be done, we're saying these are often unnecessary, and therefore the patients should ask the doctor, 'Gee, do I need this?'" Cassel advised.

A story that surfaced earlier in the week concerning wasteful spending in our government is much more blatant and should disgust all taxpayers. During a five-day conference in Las Vegas in 2010, a group of employees from the General Services Administration dropped $823,000 on the taxpayers' dime. It's both ironic and disconcerting that this federal agency is responsible for overseeing and managing frivolous spending in government.

On their Las Vegas fling, the 300 conference attendees stayed in luxury suites and threw semi-private parties catered by room service. Their $146,527 food bill included $44-per-person breakfasts, a $30,207.60 cocktail reception and closing dinner, and a "networking reception" featuring 1,000 sushi rolls priced at $7 each.

As for activities, they spent $75,000 in a team-building exercise one afternoon, constructing 24 bicycles for a charity group.

How generous of them.

One other irony concerned a bill for $6,325 which was spent for commemorative coins. Presented in velvet boxes, the coins saluted the GSA for its work on the stimulus spending backed by President Obama.

This is highly embarrassing for the president, who promised in his inauguration speech to end wasteful spending and who demonized bank employees several years ago for taking lavish Vegas vacations right after they were bailed out by the government. Now a group from this bloated federal government – a watchdog agency no less – is guilty of the same kind of reckless spending under Obama's watch.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]