Here in Minnesota, there’s good reason to worry about the damage ObamaCare might cause. The Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Policy Center has worked hard to voice its worries:

Dr. Douglas Wood, who chairs the clinic’s division of Health Care Policy & Research, said a public plan modeled after the Medicare system has the potential to do serious harm to health care in states like Minnesota where quality is high and costs are low.

“If it’s a government-run plan with government price controls, that could be highly detrimental to states like Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and all across the northern tier of the United States,” Wood said.

About 200 people gathered at the Minnesota History Center for the forum, including lawmakers, business leaders and health care company officials. As Congress works on overhauling the nation’s health care system, Mayo Clinic has been highlighted repeatedly by President Obama for its efficient and quality care.

As the health care debate ramps up, so have the efforts of the Mayo Clinic’s Health Care Policy Center to get out its message that value must be part of the health care equation. Launched about four years ago, the center has consulted with 1,200 “thought leaders,” as it calls them, and 1,400 patients to draft what it calls the four cornerstones for health care reform. They are: creating value to improve patient care, coordinating patient care, reforming the payment system to consider value and providing health insurance for all.

Before we start examining the reform proposals, we must ask a provocative question: Would the Mayo Clinic have gotten built if we’d had a system whose key principles would’ve been cost controls and universal coverage? I can’t see how that would’ve happened with a system centered on price controls. Frankly, any system that puts a higher priority on price controls and universal coverage than on quality couldn’t attract the capital for building something like the Mayo Clinic.

It’s important that we remember this reform ‘movement’ isn’t about fixing a broken system. Minnesota has a great system in terms of great results, lots of access to health insurance and affordable prices. If this were about reforming the system, Pelosi, Baucus, Kennedy and Dodd would be modeling their legislation after Minnesota’s system.

This reform regime is about gaining control over a major part of people’s lives. That’s why Democrats don’t talk about providing quality health care. They’ve focused their arguments on universal health care. They’ve also tried preventing a discussion on how price controls affects quality and innvation.

It’s important that conservatives emphasize the importance of quality care and how that impacts families and businesses. For instance, how productive can a worker be if a person can’t get treated for a problem? It’s like the difference between taking your car into the mechanic to get worked on vs. taking your car into the expert to get it fixed.

It’s important that conservatives ask whether the Mayo Clinic would’ve done the pioneering work if they would’ve had to deal with government-imposed price controls and other regulations. The simple answer is that they wouldn’t have. It would’ve been impossible for that to happen.

People keep trying to sell the notion that the system we have is broken. That’s almost impossible to do here in Minnesota. Minnesota has been the healthiest or second healthiest state in the United States seemingly forever. Minnesota also has one of the lowest rates of uninsured people in the United States. That says quality AND access. Where’s the crisis?

This Pi-Press article talks about some of the things that Mayo Clinic is currently thinking about:

The speakers feared the end result would fall short of meaningful payment reform. If the priority among lawmakers is to lower the national uninsured rate, they might simply cut Medicare payment rates across the board and use the savings to make insurance affordable. That would mean less money to Minnesota’s health care providers, and more money leaving the state to cover the high uninsured rate in other states.

It isn’t difficult to think how we can lower health care costs. An eighth grader could figure that out. Installing price controls and limiting budgets will fix that problem. Things get dicier if you want to keep health care costs lower and maintain quality.

To accomplish that, you’ll need innovation, competition and fewer government mandates than we currently have. Every mandate raises the cost of insurance. Sometimes it’s worth it. Frequently, it isn’t.

Implementing smart changes that won’t prevent high quality care takes time. It requires people thinking things through. It also requires discarding a cookie-cutter plan, which is what the Kennedy-Dodd legislation and the Baucus legislation is. Most importantly, we must keep quality a high priority.

We can’t afford a system that would’ve made the building of the Mayo Clinic difficult or impossible.

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9 Responses to “Would Mayo Clinic Have Been Built?”

  • eric zaetsch says:

    Hello again Gary.

    Don’t forget the current Mayo business model. Lots of Middle East and other moneyed foreign travel for treatment – even with special lodging arrangements in Rochester to foster this.

    Remember the last king of Jordan before the current one died there, despite the best treatment in the world. They cannot do miracles, but they can attract a worldwide clientele and charge accordingly since UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE is for all in this nation, not, yet at least, for all.

  • eric zaetsch says:

    Also, Wikipedia on Jonas Salk is interesting. He got his first job because of GRANT MONEY and progressed in his career because of GRANT MONEY, including private funding from the Mellon interests. So, in answer to your hypothetical, it seems that the cream rises; and without FEDERAL GRANT FUNDING – TAXPAYER MONEY, a lot of progress would have been delayed. Think about it.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, the point is that this type of facility wouldn’t be possible if we’d had the type of price control regime that’s contained in the public option.

    For that matter, we wouldn’t have kept the St. Cloud Hospital running.

    In 2008, the DFL talked constantly about the need to invest in transportation infrastructure. This year, DC Democrats are willing to essentially ignore the cost of maintaining the health care infrastructure. WHY???

    It’s shameful that Pelosi’s & Obama’s Democrats are willing to support a system that taxpayers will have to pay megataxes to maintain the health care infrastructure.

    With the current system, which admittedly is flawed, profits maintain the health care infrastructure.

  • Gary,

    I would not state that the current system is broken but parts of it ARE BADLY broken and in need of repair. However, this type of government run healthcare will radically change the bad AND THE GOOD in the system and when you radically change something that works, you break it!

    Eric – taxpayer money can and should be used for research grants but throwing trillions of dollars into getting in between a patient and the doctor is not the same as grant money. Nice attempt to muddy the waters though.


  • Paul says:

    I’d argue somewhat against your conclusion. I imagine you’d say that the UK has a system based around price controls and universal coverage, and yet it has:

    National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery – international center for training and research

    The Royal Marsden – internationally renowned cancer treatment and research center

    Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital – another hospital with an international reputation

    Stoke Mandeville Hospital – largest spinal injuries department in the world

    King’s College hospital NHS Trust – largest liver unit in the world

    Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust – largest childhood illness research center outside of the US

    All this in an area less than the size of Minnesota! The NHS is flawed, massively so in my opinion, but to say that it can’t produce centers of excellence stretches the argument too far.

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