Mayo Clinic CEO sees path forward after president's speech

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President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington, as Vice President Joe Biden, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listen.
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WASHINGTON — As Mayo Clinic President and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy watched President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday night from inside the U.S. House chamber, he was struck by the president's comment that the nation's health-care system is "broken."

"I thought it was very important for the president to acknowledge and state explicitly that the health-care system in America is broken," Noseworthy said this morning. "And to say that as president, for the American public to hear the president say that, is really a call to action that we need to fix the health-care system."

The comment gives Noseworthy hope that Mayo Clinic's efforts to change how health care is delivered and paid for in this country will have a chance of advancing.

"I think that he gave us a wide open path to go forward with the work we are heavily involved in," Noseworthy said.

During his speech, the president said, "For decades, few things exposed hardworking families to economic hardship more than a broken health-care system. And in case you haven't heard, we're in the process of fixing that."


He touted key provisions in the Affordable Care Act that allow Americans younger than 26 to remain on their parents' health care and prohibit insurance companies from dropping coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Obama also noted that more than 9 million Americans have signed up so far for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

Noseworthy said Mayo Clinic supports many of those changes to the health insurance reform aimed at making sure more Americans have coverage. But he said the next step is to modernize the Medicare system by moving away from the fee-for-service payment model to one that focuses on outcomes and recognizes complex cases.

It's an issue Mayo Clinic has been heavily pushing for at the federal level. Noseworthy was slated to meet with some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill this morning to discuss the issue.

Noseworthy also was heartened by the president's call to restore funding for research.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had invited Noseworthy to attend the president's address. Before the speech, Klobuchar introduced Noseworthy to dozens of lawmakers. He said he was stunned by the level of interest about Mayo Clinic and its work.

Noseworthy added, "I lost track of literally how many people said to me, 'Oh the Mayo Clinic. That's a very special place. That is a very special community. Why can't we do that where I live?'"

The president's speech drew criticism from Republicans concerned about his plan to use his executive authority to advance proposals he backs that do not have the necessary support in Congress. The president plans to issue an executive order to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contract workers.

"America's families should no longer bear the burden of failed policies and a weak economy. Wages are stagnant, unemployment is too high, college costs are skyrocketing and health-care premiums continue to go up," 2nd District GOP Rep. John Kline said in a statement. "No executive order or unilateral action will help families if it simply perpetuates the same flawed agenda and failed status quo."


First District DFL Rep. Tim Walz said he appreciated the president's focus on the need for Republicans and Democrats to put aside their partisan differences and work together.

"I agree with that bipartisan message," Walz said. "We're not going to agree on everything, but let's make progress where we can — like on a bipartisan, robust transportation bill that creates jobs and makes our communities safer."

• Minimum wage: Obama pledged to issue an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for federal contract workers.

• Retirement savings: The president will use his executive authority to create a starter retirement savings account to help Americans save for retirement called "myRA."

• Job-training programs: The president is calling for a program-by-program review of the nation's training programs to make sure they are more focused on the skills needed in high-demand sectors.

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