Friday, October 2, 2009

Mayo Opposes Public Option

Preface: In his Oct. 2 blog, Kevin Pho, MD, in notes that the Mayo Clinic opposes a public option. The Mayo opposition is rattling the Obama administration, who keeps saying the medical world would be better off if all doctors only practiced like they do at the Mayo Clinic. Here is what Kevin had to say.

“Health reformers often cite the Mayo Clinic as a model for how all medical practices should look like.”

“It’s often mentioned by the President, and indeed, studies do back up their claims of higher quality, lower cost, care.”

“But in a recent piece from the Washington Post, some are questioning whether the stellar results from the Mayo are due to demographics. The Mayo Clinic has a very low Medicaid patient population, perhaps because they make these patients pay a premium to use the hospital’s services.”

“To me, the most telling statistic is that Mayo Clinic outposts in other areas of the country, like Jacksonville and Phoenix, have spending rates comparable to local hospitals.”

“In any case, there’s a bit of a dissonance for progressive reformers who espouse the Mayo way. The hospital is staunchly opposed to a public plan option, which will financially hurt the institution. Health reformers should be careful when constantly pointing to the Mayo as the ideal medical model, because politically, their interests are not aligned.”

Kevin is referring to a Washington Post article by Richard “Buz” Cooper, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In what has come to be known at “The Cooper Report,” sponsored by the Physicians’ Foundation, which represents 650,000 physicians, Cooper challenges the notion that Mayo is inherently more efficient.

Its “efficiency,” i.e., its lower costs and better outcomes, Cooper maintains, is due to the simple fact that Mayo serves a population of relatively well-off , insured, well-educated, mainly white people of Scandanavian heritage rather than the less well-off and sicker folk of mixed cultures in immigrant-rich inner cities.

Socio-economic conditions, racial heritage, and cultural factors must be taken into account when comparing health costs in different sections of the country.

Dr. Richard Reece’s latest book, Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform ( is available at,, and for $31.95 (hardcover), $21.95 (softcover), and $6.95 (electronic)

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