Mayo Clinic Offers Proposal for Universal Health Care
The Mayo Clinic on Friday released a universal health care proposal that would require all U.S. residents to obtain health coverage and shift away from the current employer-sponsored coverage model, CQ HealthBeat reports (Walker, CQ HealthBeat, 9/14).
The recommendations were drafted over 18 months of discussions with more than 400 health policy experts (Freudenheim, New York Times, 9/15).
A "snapshot in time" rather than a final plan, the proposal includes 19 recommendations, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin (Stolle, Rochester Post-Bulletin, 9/15).
Among the proposals, Mayo Clinic recommends that the U.S. create a health care system based on portable individual-based coverage, which would be paid for by individuals with help from employers in some cases.
Lower-income individuals would receive government assistance on a sliding scale. Private insurance companies would be required to offer standard plans with many options and would not be able to refuse applicants, according to the recommendations. The portable plans would allow employees to retain insurance during job changes, according to Denis Cortese, the clinic's CEO (New York Times, 9/15).
The recommendations also include the creation of a federal oversight group to establish health care standards. In addition, the recommendations focus on ways to improve quality of care while increasing consumer access to outcome data.
The clinic recommends that outcome data be published on a central Web site that would allow patients to make decisions about care based on quality. Reimbursement rates should be tied to outcome data, with high-quality hospitals receiving higher reimbursement rates than low-quality hospitals, according to the recommendations.
The clinic has not estimated the cost of its recommendations -- which will be sent to presidential candidates and all members of Congress -- or how the plan would be funded, according to CQ HealthBeat (CQ HealthBeat, 9/14). The proposals will be discussed in greater detail at a symposium in March 2008 (Rochester Post-Bulletin, 9/15).
Executives that took part in the discussions said they were "not ready to abandon their current health plans for employees"; however, they "agreed that rising medical costs and the aging of the baby boomer generation were pushing the current system toward a crisis," according to the Times.
Anthony Wisniewski, executive director of health care policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who took part in the discussions, said, "We do not believe in relinquishing the employer-sponsored health care system."
However, Andrew Mekelburg, an executive at Verizon Communications, said that the recommendations have "a pretty good chance" of garnering serious consideration from lawmakers, noting that the Mayo Clinic "is extremely well respected" (New York Times, 9/15).
Cortese said, "Everywhere I go, I hear people saying we're not getting high value, we're not getting good access, we're not getting good outcomes, our safety is not where it ought to be, the service isn't very good and our costs are very high." He added that any costs associated with the plan would be recouped over time.
"Frankly, everybody who is needing care is already getting it somewhere, somehow, and they're getting it way too late in their illness. They're costing the system much more than they would have to otherwise" (Olson, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 9/14).
Stuart Butler, a health policy expert at the Heritage Foundation who participated in the discussions, said, "Mayo understands that the era of traditional employer-sponsored insurance is ending, and we need to think about the employer's role evolving into a different model."
Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health who also participated in the discussions, said, "Looking forward five to 10 years, most people agree that we don't have a sustainable system," adding, "What not everybody agrees on is the solution" (New York Times, 9/15).