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Kind and Walz push for quality, lower cost health care

June 16, 2009
In The News

U.S. Reps. Ron Kind and Tim Walz are working on aspects of health care reform that don’t get talked about as much as universal coverage — cost and quality.

The Democrats from western Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota are co-sponsors of a bill that would change the way the federal government reimburses health care institutions — to put the emphasis on quality care and better coordination of care.
Costs can be substantially reduced in the process, they said.

The Medicare Payment Improvement Act would base pay on health outcomes rather than specific procedures.

Health care reform, Walz said, “is not just insuring everyone. It’s making sure we’re getting what we’re paying for.”

“This is all about quality over quantity,” Kind said. “It’s about rewarding the value-based, outcome-based health care that has been proven to work right here in western Wisconsin.”

President Barack Obama visited Green Bay last week to urge support for health care reform. He praised Green Bay’s health care system for its low cost and good results.

Similar results are found in La Crosse, Rochester, Minn., and Marshfield, Wis., where large clinics provide quality care at low cost — and coordinate care better than in Florida or on the East Coast.

A Washington Post story last week said Medicare paid an average of $5,812 for each beneficiary in La Crosse in 2006, while the average in Miami was $16,351. Yet the health results are worse in Miami and other high-cost places than in the Midwest, Kind and Walz said.

A team approach is needed, Kind said, plus health information technology and comparative effectiveness studies to determine what works and what doesn’t.

“We need to empower doctors and patients with that information so they can make good decisions about their care,” Kind said.

Passage will be difficult, Walz said, because representatives from the highest-cost areas will be reluctant to do anything that lowers reimbursement to health providers.

“The 11 states with the best quality and lowest costs have fewer members than California alone,” Walz said.

“I would challenge my colleagues to say we don’t want to measure outcomes and improve quality.”