Mayo Clinic’s "perfect model": turn away Medicare & Medicaid patients … oops.

TakeAway: Critics Say Move Shows That Facility Is Not a Model for Health-Care Reform

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Excerpted from Washington Post, Mayo Clinic Faulted for Limiting Medicare Patients, October 13, 2009 

The renowned Mayo Clinic is no longer accepting some Medicare and Medicaid patients, raising new questions about whether it is too selective to serve as a model for health-care reform.

The White House has repeatedly held up for praise Mayo and other medical centers, many of which are in the Upper Midwest, that perform well in Dartmouth College rankings showing wide disparities in how much hospitals spend on Medicare patients.

Mayo announced late last week that its flagship facility in Rochester, Minn., will no longer accept Medicaid patients from Nebraska and Montana. The clinic draws patients from across the Midwest and West, but it will now accept Medicaid recipients only from Minnesota and the four states that border it. As it is, 5 percent of Mayo’s patients in Rochester are on Medicaid, well below the average for other big teaching hospitals, and below the 29 percent rate at the other hospital in town.

Separately, the Mayo branch in Arizona — the third leg of the Mayo stool, with the Rochester clinic and one in Florida — put out word a few days ago that under a two-year pilot program, it would no longer accept Medicare for patients seeking primary care at its Glendale facility. That facility, with 3,000 regular Medicare patients, will continue to see them for advanced care — Mayo’s specialty — but those seeking primary care will need to pay an annual $250 fee, plus fees of $175 to $400 per visit.

Mayo officials said Monday that the two moves were “business decisions” that had grown out of longstanding concerns about what it sees as underpayment by Medicare and Medicaid.

The officials said they were not meant to influence the national reform debate, in which Mayo has also been advocating against the creation of a government-run insurance option. But they said the moves were indicative of the need for the Medicare payment reforms it has been pushing in Washington.

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One Response to “Mayo Clinic’s "perfect model": turn away Medicare & Medicaid patients … oops.”

  1. Auriandra Says:

    Mayo Clinic attacked for Pro-Reform Stance (daily kos)
    Wed Oct 14, 2009 at 08:22:03 PM CST
    In an article yesterday in the Washington Post, Mayo Clinic was attacked for cutting off access to Medicaid and Medicare patients. In fact, these cutbacks were extremely limited. The story is the second in the Post by Alec MacGillis that reflects the position of an organization known as the AAMC. Mayo’s response:
    Mayo Clinic feels that this story is a distraction from the true issue at hand—that of getting Congress to pay for value. As we have stated on this blog numerous times before, the only way to raise the bar for care while at the same time bending the cost curve, is to reward the best outcomes—Pay for Value, not volume. [emphasis mine.]
    Mayo continues to see Medicare patients from its region (MN, IL, WI, IA, SD and ND or 99% of Mayo’s Medicare patients). The change affected only a small number of patients coming from Montana and Nebraska. The change in Arizona involved a single primary care clinic, at which Mayo continues to see Medicare patients for specialty services. This has been conflated in the conservative blogosphere into the meme that ‘Mayo is no longer accepting any Medicare or Medicaid patients.’ This is an outrage.
    Like an earlier article in the Washington Post by the same reporter, Alec MacGillis, titled “Is the Mayo Clinic a Model Or a Mirage? Jury Is Still Out”, it is an unabashed attempt to discredit Mayo as an appropriate ideal for reforming US health care.
    Behind the stories appears to be the AAMC, the Association of Academic Medical Centers, which represents the country’s teaching hospitals and lobbies for the continuation of special extra payments to these hospitals. The official of the AAMC quoted in the article is in fact “AAMC’s ‘voice’ on advocacy issues,” Dr. Atul Grover, head of its Advisory Panel on Health Care. Dr. Grover, recently of The Lewin Group (a subsidiary of for-profit United Health Care) took on the advocacy position in March. His assignment: to be, according to AAMC President Daryll Kirsch, MD, “the main architect and strategist of the AAMC’s advocacy agenda, effectively mobilizing the association’s government relations and communications teams and resources to accomplish the legislative goals of the academic medicine community.” The AAMC is best known in the industry as lobbying for the continuation special extra payments to these hospitals.
    Mayo’s position has been that US health care would benefit from a health care system that is more like “Mayo-care for all.” For this it has endured a series of attacks by the AAMC and several specialty societies, including the ACC, the American College of Cardiology. It is no accident that the AAMC-influenced article appeared in the Washington Post appeared on the day of the vote in the Finance Committee on the Baucus bill.
    The gist of the attacks has been to question Mayo’s quality, its low costs, how sick its patients are, and whether its practice is “transferrable.” I hope to settle these questions by providing the facts as they have been well established and that are surely well known by the AAMC and other organizations.
    The data in the tables below shows that the attacks on Mayo’s patient mix, quality, costs and outcomes are unsubstantiated. For this data, I accessed the publicly available American Hospital Directory ( which compiles data from HHS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, and other public sources.
    oThe Dartmouth Atlas (showing regional differences in surgery and costs
    o The Commonwealth Fund State Scorecard (new)
    o The Kaiser Family Foundation StateHealthFacts (newly updated)
    Mayo’s Credentials as High Quality, Low Cost Provider
    For the analysis below, there are two sets of medical centers provided for comparison. The first is the complete list of hospitals in the Top Ten of the annual US News and World Report rankings (in which Mayo has scored second place every year just after Johns Hopkins since the ranking was introduced in the early 1990s. All data is for Medicare.
    # US News Top 11 Severity CMI adj Cost Cost Adj COL Adjusted
    1 Johns Hopkins 1.82 $12,484 0.96 $11,985
    2 Mayo/Saint Marys 1.97 $8,926 1.00 $8,926
    3 Reagan UCLA 2.16 $11,625 1.03 $11,974
    4 Cleveland Clinic 2.33 $6,987 0.97 $6,777
    5 Mass General 1.85 $9,774 1.25 $12,218
    6 Columbia Presb 1.89 $10,525 1.24 $13,051
    7 UCSF 2.07 $14,803 1.13 $16,727
    8 U Penn 2.27 $9,032 0.97 $8,761
    9 Barnes-Jewish 1.86 $7,800 0.93 $7,254
    10 Brigham & Women’s 2.02 $9,937 1.25 $12,421
    10 Duke 2.00 $7,920 1.02 $8,078
    US AVERAGE 0.89 CNNMoney [calc]
    The second list includes nearby health systems or similarly organized practices (in addition to Cleveland Clinic in the first list these include Intermountain Health and Geisinger Clinic). Gunderson/Lutheran is a somewhat smaller integrated group practice. HealthPartners (Regions Hospital) is a successful co-op.
    Other Major Centers Severity CMI adj Cost Cost Adj COL Adjusted
    Geisinger 1.87 $7,157 0.84 $6,012
    Gunderson-Lutheran 1.70 $7,941 0.95 $7,544
    Intermountain 2.03 $8,287 0.95 $7,873
    Mayo/Saint Marys 1.97 $8,926 1.00 $8,926
    Olmsted Medical Group 1.23 $8,620 1.00 $8,620
    Regions Mpls/StP 1.63 $8,128 1.00 $8,128
    U of Minnesota 1.85 $11,432 1.00 $11,432
    U Wisconsin Madison 1.98 $10,529 0.93 $10,968
    US AVERAGE CNNMoney [calc]
    In brief, Mayo sees a mix (severity) of patients commensurate with that of its peer hospitals. It does this while achieving lower costs and high quality (see
    The Commonwealth data [pdf]shows that Minnesota in which the Mayo system is the primary provider has low instances of unnecessary deaths; Mayo’s region is typical of Minnesota as a whole (Dartmouth).
    The Dartmouth studies have shown that in addition, Mayo does very well in terms of avoiding unnecessary procedures, manages end-of-life care well, and saves money as well. A specific study of patients with chronic conditions by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which accompanied its 2008 Atlas, reported:
    Consider this comparison between the Mayo Clinic’s flagship St. Mary’s Hospital and
    UCLA Medical Center.
    • Spending: UCLA spent more than $93,000 per patient over the last two years of
    life. The Mayo Clinic, by contrast, spent $53,432—a little more than half the
    amount of UCLA on similar patients over the same period of time.
    • Utilization: Chronically ill patients in their last six months of life had more than
    twice as many physician visits at UCLA compared with Mayo, and they spent
    almost 50 percent more days in the hospital.
    • Resource Use: Compared to the Mayo Clinic, UCLA uses one-and-a-half times
    the number of beds, almost twice as many physician FTEs in managing similar
    This study concludes “If the U.S. health care system mirrored the practice patterns of gold-standard health care systems such as the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Medicare could save tens of billions of
    dollars annually. Those savings would come just when Medicare needs that money
    most, as baby boomers prepare to retire in droves, putting unprecedented pressure on
    the health-care system.”
    IN THESE STATISTICS it should be noted that in addition to Mayo, the other centers which also achieve these goals are also centers which practice in the tradition of the “integrated group practice.” These include the Cleveland Clinic (which is the most similar to Mayo but sees a high percentage of Medicaid patients), Geisinger Clinic (Pennsylvania), and Intermountain Health (Utah).
    This analysis should settle the question as to whether Mayo provides excellent care to a challenging set of patients, does this at lower cost, and achieves excellent results in terms of measures of quality and patient satisfaction, avoiding both unnecessary surgeries and unnecessary deaths, by well established criteria.
    If others have data that contradicts this, it would be better for us all if they would produce it rather than mislead the country at this critical time with blatantly false and intentionally misleading information and insinuations.

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