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Obama Loves Mayo, But Mayo Does Not Love Him (Update: Gibbs Responds, Badly)

2:10 PM, Jul 20, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Throughout his push for health-care reform, President Obama has held up the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota as an example of great medicine at lower prices-something that could and should be emulated all over the country with guidance from his health care overhaul:

Obama, June 11: "And so what you've got is a situation where, for example, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, is famous for some of the best quality and some of the lowest cost. People are healthier coming out of there, they do great."

Obama, June 24: "Well, I think what's important is to say to the American People that you should get the best possible care to make you well. And that the measure of the quality of care is not quantity, but whether or not it is making you better. Now, what we've seen is that there's some communities and some health systems that do this very well. Mayo Clinic, a classic example. In Rochester, Minnesota. People go there. They-- spend about 20-30 percent less than some other parts of the country, and yet have better outcomes."

Obama, July 1: "There are some places, like the Mayo Clinic -- many of you have heard of -- provides outstanding care, some of the best in the world. People fly in from everywhere to go to Mayo Clinic to get treatment. It turns out Mayo provides care much more cheaply than a lot of other health systems, even though it's better care."

Indeed, the Mayo Clinic is a model for great care at lower costs. If only Obama's health care plan, shaping up in Congress, promised to deliver anything like Mayo Clinic results. The Mayo Clinic does not approve. And, as he's pointed out, they should know.

Although there are some positive provisions in the current House Tri-Committee bill - including insurance for all and payment reform demonstration projects - the proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher-quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite.

In general, the proposals under discussion are not patient focused or results oriented. Lawmakers have failed to use a fundamental lever - a change in Medicare payment policy - to help drive necessary improvements in American health care. Unless legislators create payment systems that pay for good patient results at reasonable costs, the promise of transformation in American health care will wither. The real losers will be the citizens of the United States.

Update: Jake Tapper asked Gibbs about the Mayo Clinic's assessment, and got very little:

TAPPER: The president has had a lot of kind words to say about the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and their ability to provide quality health care and reduce costs. But the clinic issued a statement about the House Democrats' bill, saying, "The proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients, and in fact it will do the opposite. In general, the proposals are not -- under discussion are not patient-focused or results-oriented. Lawmakers have failed to use the fundamental lever of changing Medicare payment policy to help drive necessary improvements in American health care." Does the president have any response to that, given his respect for the way the Mayo Clinic provides health care?

GIBBS: I saw that not long before I came out here. I don't -- I've asked the health policy people to look directly into that. I know that we've worked with -- with, as I said, doctors and nurses and lots of stakeholders on improving legislation, making sure that we're focused on patient quality, making sure that we're focused on cost-effective medicine. And that's what we'll continue to do. I'll work on getting something more specific.