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Congress: Patient-centered reform needed

Mayo Clinic and other medical groups have sent a letter to Congress demanding "patient centered" measures, on the eve of a scheduled meeting between President Obama and members of Congress from both major political parties to discuss health reform.

Mayo led 22 other organizations, including the Cleveland Clinic, in signing the open letter to Congress saying they've all agreed on two priorities that Congress should follow:

• Create a cost-effective Medicare payment system with incentives for doctors and hospitals that give the highest-quality care at the best price.

• Make sure basic private insurance coverage is offered, with sliding-scale subsidies "to enable all Americans to purchase health insurance."

Mayo and Cleveland Clinic are perhaps two of the best-known medical centers in the country.


But other signatories include representatives from America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP),  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Healthcare Leadership Council, Altru Health, Aetna, Affinity Health and Arizona State University.

"These are people that basically have different views on things — you have someone from the Chamber of Commerce — you have different views, coming together," U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn. said in a phone call from the the nation's capital.

The Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center organized the effort, with the letter scheduled to be published today in "Roll Call" magazine, which is read by members of Congress. The letter forewarns of "the beginning of a huge influx of Medicare beneficiaries" who will "put significant strain on Medicare's already precarious financial position," among other pressures on the nation's health providers that threaten to cause the health-care system to crumble if reform fails.

Mayo's name may carry more weight after its recent announcement that an analysis showed the medical center with campus in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida has a $22 billion impact on the nation's economy each year — and for every dollar spent by Mayo on operations, supplies or personnel, another $2.05 is generated for the U.S. economy.

Klobuchar said she favors the priorities outlined in the letter.

She believes the recent pause in deliberations encouraged reform of the U.S. health system.

"I think a lot of groups sat back and thought, you know we just can't sit back and continue the way we are," Klobuchar said.

She said she needs the support of Cleveland Clinic, Mayo and others because states that have been getting paid based on high volume of tests, rather than quality of care, don't want to change the system.


"We need reputable organizations out there supporting what we're trying to do," she said. She got pay-for-value included in the Senate health-reform bill, but tempers continue to flare.

"There's been so much partisan fighting on this, and the one that's losing out on this has been the American people," she said.

Josh Derr, Mayo Health Policy Center manager, said Mayo timed the letter to precede the Obama meeting. He noted that the center is "encouraged" by a White House statement of Obama's current proposal, which "provides incentives for doctors, and hospitals that improve quality while providing for better coordination that helps to reduce harmful medical errors and healthcare-acquired infections. It will provide innovative payment reforms so providers are rewarded for the quality of care they provide, rather than just additional tests or treatments. And it rewards innovative practices where doctors and nurse practitioners provide more primary care that is coordinated with every doctor or specialist involved with a patient’s care."

Derr said some invited organizations declined to sign the letter. But that their reasons were not that they disagreed with Mayo's top priorities, but that they had more-pressing ones of their own. Some, for example, aren't focused on Medicare because their workers are too young to qualify.

"The big focus here," Derr said, 'is that a lot of these policy ideas that we're pushing on should have broad agreement across the political spectrum."

The letter tells members of Congress that "all stakeholders — government officials, patients and families, insurers, doctors and nurses, and employers" should "work together to pass reforms that provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans."

Thursday is a chance for Congress to work together to find common ground, Derr said.

"We just don't want them to miss out on that opportunity," he said.

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