September 25th, 2009

September 25: Health Care Reform Coverage

By Kelley Luckstein

Health care debate: Minn. jumps into lobbying scrum

The Mayo Clinic, UnitedHealth Group, Medtronic and St. Jude are among those making their presence felt in Washington.


In an ideal world, Mayo Chief Executive Denis Cortese would leave it to the professionals to design a high-value, low-cost health care system. Congress, he told a National Press Club forum last week, would "step back, take a deep breath and ... close the door to lobbyists."


But in the real world of Washington politics, the Mayo Clinic has spent more than a half-million dollars on federal lobbying so far this year, more than its total for all of 2008. Still, that pales in comparison with Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, America's largest insurer, which has spent more than $2.6 million so far this year to influence federal legislation…


Congress in an attempt to ensure the landmark health care reform legislation addresses their issues. It's estimated that hundreds of former government officials are employed as lobbyists in the effort, and that more than $1 million is being spent each day on lobbying in the current fight.


"Once in 20 years something like this comes along," said Bruce Kelly, Mayo's director of government relations. "So if you work in health care, this is the big one."


Star Tribune by Kevin Diaz, 09/25/09



Mayo responds to 'mirage' assertion

Experts quoted an a Washington Post article assert that Mayo Clinic's model of health reform might be a "mirage."


The Post-Bulletin asked Mayo to respond to the article's assertions, and the clinic agreed.


Below are the answers of Josh Derr, manager of Mayo's Health Policy Center, an entity created two years ago to offer guidance to policy makers about how best to reform the nation's health-care system.


Can the Mayo system of high quality, low cost be replicated?


You are more likely to achieve better results for patients if you call up a colleague and use teamwork, Derr said. Coordinating care through "interoperable IT" (electronic communication) can help. Even places that rank high on the list of quality still have room for improvement. If a patient gets referred from Cleveland Clinic to Mayo in Rochester today, Cleveland Clinic still faxes the medical record. The federal stimulus package includes funding for setting up an electronic medical records system. The government needs to set up the parameters and then health providers will be able to devise that plan. It's like somebody telling you to build a highway without telling you how many lanes it should be, or how wide the lanes should be. Health providers just need to know the framework for creating a nationwide medical records system.


How can a family physician in private practice in a rural community, or a small-town health system, learn from the Mayo system?


It's not about how big you are, but about your network. Do you have expertise to turn to? That expertise could be from the hospital that you refer your patients to, for example. Basically, do you have someone to call if you're not quite sure about a diagnosis?


"If you're out in a rural community, there are still ways to engage a team," Derr said, whether it be by telephone or electronically.


To find out how Derr responds to a recent assertion that Mayo's patients are "wealthier, healthier and less ethnically diverse than those elsewhere in the country," see this story in Thursday's print edition.


Post-Bulletin by Jeff Hansel, 09/24/09


Additional health care reform coverage:

Health Beat Blog – Maggie Mahar




U.S. Senate Panel Backs Health Insurance Requirement

The Washington Post

September 25, 2009


A U.S. Senate panel considering a sweeping health care overhaul upheld a requirement that individuals purchase health insurance and rejected a proposal that could have scuttled an $80 billion White House deal with drug makers.


Health Care Reform You Can Count On

CNN Money

September 25, 2009


Drowning out the noise of the debate, here are three that stand a good chance of passing if lawmakers wrap up reform this year: putting a tighter leash on insurers, creating a new insurance marketplace, expanding coverage, making it more affordable.


Seniors’ Hopes, Fears at Center of Health Debate

The Washington Post

September 25, 2009


For the moment, the health care fight is all about older folks.


Additional Coverage

Seniors Courted in Health Debate - The Washington Times


Baucus Winning


September 25, 2009


Looks like Baucus can hold his delicate bill together all the way through Senate floor consideration?




Health Plan Members Pleased with their HSAs

Healthleaders Media

September 25, 2009

Most employers and account holders using health savings accounts and HSA-qualified health plans are satisfied with their coverage, spend less, and are more engaged in managing health benefits.


Uninsured More Likely to Die

Healthleaders Media

September 25, 2009


Individuals without private medical insurance are more likely to die, according to a new study, "Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults," published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.




Health Care Issues:  Overutilization of Care

The Washington Post

September 25, 2009


Health care costs in the United States are far higher than in other countries without better outcomes, and most experts agree that's partly because of the excessive and often unnecessary use of expensive tests, surgeries and procedures.


Costs to Government, Consumers Remains Unclear in Finance Bill

Medical News Today

September 25, 2009


The Congressional Budget Office tends to miss the mark on bigger bills.  When it comes to "more dramatic or novel changes in policy, there's no previous experience in which to refer.




Senators Debate Expanding Medicaid (Just Not for Themselves)

The New York Times

September 25, 2009

Nearly all Republicans in Congress are opposed to a Democratic health care plan that would expand Medicaid to millions of currently uninsured Americans, generally citing its cost. But, on Thursday, several lawmakers suggested a new rationale: the health program for the poor is worse than no insurance.


House Votes to Block Increase in Medicare Part B Premiums

The New York Times

September 25, 2009

The House voted 406 to 18 to eliminate all premium increases for people who use Medicare Part B, which pays for doctor visits. The bill now goes to the Senate.



To Fix Health Care, Start Over


September 25, 2009


A Gallup Poll released Monday revealed 57 percent of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses; a far greater percentage than at any point in the recent past


Do Insurers Meddle in Your Medical Care?

CNN Money

September 25, 2009

Some frustrated physicians complain of 'hassles' from insurance companies, but others say they could help doctors practice better medicine.



Obama’s Deal with Drug Firms Survives

The Washington Post

September 25, 2009

Democratic senators tried unsuccessfully to override a deal the drug industry struck months ago with the Obama White House and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.


Senate Panel Rejects Bid to Add Drug Discount

The New York Times

September 25, 2009


The Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to give bigger discounts to Medicare on drugs dispensed to older Americans with low incomes.




Overhaul Divides Business and its Traditional GOP Allies

The Wall Street Journal

September 25, 2009

Business is parting from its traditional allies in the Republican Party on health care as companies and big corporate lobbyists lend tentative support to a congressional overhaul.

Tags: health care reform, Health Policy, Health Policy

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