Obama should accept Mayo's invitation

Minnesota isn't a swing state, although TV watchers in southeastern Minnesota certainly could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. We experienced more than our fair share of what we'll call "collateral damage" from political ads targeting voters in Wisconsin and Iowa during the past month.

But neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney saw fit to come to Rochester during the election campaign, and frankly, we're both miffed and baffled. Health care reform, after all, is the crowning achievement of Obama's first term, and Romney put a repeal of "Obamacare" at the top of his presidential to-do list. We're not campaign planners, but it seems that a visit to one of the best medical centers in the world would have offered both men a chance to learn about health care from the people who do it best.

That's water under the bridge, of course, but now Mayo Clinic, with a short press release from CEO Dr. John Noseworthy, has made it clear that the clinic wants high-level involvement in reforming both delivery and payment models that are "unsustainable."

The timing of this press release — the day after the election — speaks volumes. The clinic tends to steer clear of political involvement, but now that its leadership knows who will occupy the White House for the next four years, Mayo is wasting no time in seeking a well-deserved seat at the negotiating table. 

Reading a bit deeper between the lines of Noseworthy's statement, it's safe to conclude that Mayo doesn't see the Affordable Care Act as a cure-all for what ails our health care system. No surprise there, as hardly anyone does. It's a starting point, but there's a lot of work to be done.


As part of that work, we believe President Obama, Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius and a handful of high-ranking members of Congress need to spend some time at Mayo Clinic — and not just posing for photos in the atrium of the Gonda Building.

They need to talk to doctors who aren't paid based on the volume of patients they see and the number of tests they perform. They need to talk with administrators who can explain how the cost of uncompensated care affects patients who have health insurance. They need to know how low payment rates from Medicare affect the clinic's bottom line. And most importantly, they need to talk with patients and their families, to find out why they travel thousands of miles to be seen at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Noseworthy has issued a call to action, and we hope that call reverberates throughout the walls of Congress and the White House.

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