Although they don't think it's perfect, local health care providers agree President Barack Obama's historic health-care reform bill is a step in the right direction.

And while many Republicans remain opposed to the legislation, the two health-care reform bills offer health insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans currently without it, prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and require most businesses to offer health care insurance to employees.


In a release from Gundersen Lutheran (GL), officials stated, "Gundersen Lutheran believes there are serious flaws in our nation's health-care system that need to be addressed. The health care reform legislation takes some positive steps to correct some of these flaws. While they are a good first step, GL looks forward to working with our representatives in Congress to further improve our nation's health care system for our patients."

As Congress worked on health care reform legislation, GL regularly communicated with members of Congress in Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, providing feedback.

Gundersen cited several positive reforms included in the bill: shifting toward promotion of value-based health care, promoting better integration of health care institutions, correcting geographic disparities that hurt the Midwest, and increasing access to health insurance coverage.

"Health-care reform is an incremental process, and GL will continue to encourage our members of Congress to fight for added reforms in a number of areas, including further addressing health care professional shortages, especially in rural areas; streamlining regulation and administrative burden to avoid diverting resources away from patient care; and cost shifting due to inadequate federal funding of Medicare and Medicaid that results in higher premiums for private- and employer-sponsored insurance coverage."


Kurt Carlson, M.D., chief medical officer with Winneshiek Medical Center said, "One of the key factors in health-care reform must be a focus on quality, and an effective bill will offer incentives for health-care providers to offer quality care at a reduced cost.

"One of the reasons the current model of health care is not sustainable, is because the incentive for physicians to focus on quality and value is missing. If reimbursement was outcome-based, health-care organizations would find ways to improve their quality outcomes to benefit from higher reimbursement. This means the focus would shift from curing disease to preventing disease, and patients would benefit from coordinated care across the specialties. If health-care providers, and indeed lawmakers, focus on what is best for the patient, health-care reform will take us in a positive direction."


While Mayo Clinic does not traditionally take positions for or against overall legislation, Jeffrey Korsmo, executive director of the Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center, said, "We continue to strongly believe that the status quo is not acceptable and have consistently said there must be two key principles in any successful reform measure: incentives for doctors and hospitals to offer the highest quality care at the most reasonable cost, and a means to enable all Americans to purchase health insurance."

Provisions of Obama's reform bill praised by Mayo include: paying more for value, insurance reforms which include the elimination of basing coverage on pre-existing conditions, an insurance exchange, subsidies for people with financial need to purchase health insurance, an independent payment advisory board, and pilot projects on accountable-care organizations, medical homes and bundled payments.

"Mayo Clinic recognizes this legislation is an initial step toward ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans, but acknowledges much more needs to be done in the form of future legislative action ... We must ensure that health care in the United States is patient-centered, coordinated, accessible, affordable and provides steadily improving value, whether that care is provided under Medicare or any other insurance program. Mayo Clinic is committed to assist with the effective implementation of legislation if it is passed as well as the development of future patient-centered health care reform legislation," concluded Korsmo.