Mayo Clinic Blog Blasts Obamacare - InformationWeek

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7/21/2009
10:17 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Mayo Clinic Blog Blasts Obamacare

No less a revered, tech-savvy institution than the Mayo Clinic has come out swinging against President Obama's national healthcare agenda. "The real losers will be the citizens of the United States," warns the clinic's official blog. The problem: The plan fails to employ data to gauge whether publicly-funded providers are earning their money or operating Dickensian patient mills.

No less a revered, tech-savvy institution than the Mayo Clinic has come out swinging against President Obama's national healthcare agenda. "The real losers will be the citizens of the United States," warns the clinic's official blog. The problem: The plan fails to employ data to gauge whether publicly-funded providers are earning their money or operating Dickensian patient mills.The Mayo Clinic lauds the idea of healthcare insurance for all, but it believes that the current plan before Congress would simply extend Medicare's vast inefficiencies and failures to the wider public. "In general, the proposals under discussion are not patient focused or results oriented," states the Mayo Clinic, in a post on its Health Policy Blog that appeared last week.

A major shortcoming with Medicare and Medicaid is that, controlling for regional variations, they pay the same regardless of the level of care. That is, a hospital whose patients are likely to die within 30 days of a bypass gets equal reimbursement for the procedure as a hospital whose cardiac patients can expect to play tennis well into the next decade.

Obama's healthcare reform would continue to reward such medical mediocrity, but on a universal scale. The plan does envision so-called value-based payments, but not until 2012 or 2013. And the rewards for higher performance would be modest at best. "Lawmakers have failed to use a fundamental lever-a change in Medicare payment policy-to help drive necessary improvements in American healthcare," states the Mayo Clinic.

The real shame here is that the data sets needed to create a true, results-based payment system (i.e., the longer your patients live, the more money you'll make), are available right now. The Mayo Clinic has for the past several years worked closely with IBM to create one of the world's richest medical databases.

That information could be used to compare patient outcomes at specific institutions against national and regional averages to gauge performance and create payment tables. The better the performance, the higher the payment. "Outcomes data are already available," the Mayo Clinic notes in a separate position paper on the issue.

There's lots of other things wrong with Obamacare. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says it's a trillion dollar budget buster.

But perhaps the most fundamental shortfall with Obama's plan is it's apparent willful ignorance of existing healthcare data that could be mined with business intelligence tools to add a dose of free-market reality. Otherwise, the program threatens to make a trip to the doctor about as pleasant (and efficient) as getting a new driver's license from your local DMV.

That's just sick.

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