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Column: Obamacare poses threat to Rochester, Mayo Clinic


ROCHESTER — At the Rochester office of Democratic Congressman Tim Walz this week, I raised concerns about the negative impact the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will have on the Mayo Clinic, city of Rochester, health care, economic development and employment in southern Minnesota.

Rochester is a vibrant growing city with a highly-skilled workforce, high-paying jobs, excellent home values and thriving hotels, restaurants and businesses. Much of Rochester’s uniqueness and success are tied to the Mayo Clinic’s status as the world’s pre-eminent institution of medicine and the fact that patients (often accompanied by family members and friends) routinely travel long distances and stay days and weeks during treatment or hospitalization.

In addition to higher premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, loss of insurance coverage and shift from private to government insurance that Obamacare is inflicting upon thousands of families in southern Minnesota, another untold story is the huge adverse consequences Obamacare will have on the Mayo Clinic, the city of Rochester and surrounding communities. Obamacare poses a direct threat to a prosperous Rochester and the well being of patients.

As Obamacare is implemented, millions of people will be moved from private insurance to government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. These government programs routinely underfund hospitals and doctors, with reimbursement rates as low as 30 or 40 cents on the dollar. Recently, in anticipation of lower reimbursement from government programs, the established Cleveland Clinic announced budget reductions of $330 million, early retirements and possible staff reductions.

The Obamacare writing is on the wall. The Act’s substantial underfunding of medicine stands to drive excellent doctors out of practice, degrade the quality of medical care across-the-board and force rationing of medical services. We must take action to defend medical care before President Obama and Congressman Walz dumb-down the entire industry.

Obamacare also places too much power in the hands of federal bureaucrats, such as the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a 15-member panel with the power to limit Medicare reimbursement and dictate hospital and doctor behavior as well as patient outcomes.

Obamacare is top-down federal control of the medical care system that places big government in position to coerce the behavior of one-sixth of America’s economy and pick winners and losers in the medical industry. The federal government should never be given the regulatory authority to dominate private industry or our way of life.

Tim Walz voted for Obamacare and supports the Act’s full implementation. Tim Walz is on the wrong side of history; he has placed Democrat politics and liberal ideology in front of the people he is paid to represent.

The Congressman says that “health care reform is a journey, not a destination.” Because of Tim Walz, it is astonishingly conceivable that one day patients will forgo their medical journeys and Rochester will be diminished as a medical destination.

The choice on Obamacare is clear. Congressman Walz is a partisan Democrat who supports the failed monstrosity of Obamacare; meanwhile, I will fight to repeal and replace the Act with free market reforms to foster medical excellence, drive down costs and sustain the quality of U.S. medical care as the world’s best. My message to the people of Rochester and southern Minnesota is simple: I’ve got your back and I will always fight for you.” Hagedorn said.

I advocate the following free-market reforms:

* Health insurance competition across state lines to increase choice and drive down costs

* High-risk pools to protect people with serious illness/pre-existing conditions

* Extending health insurance tax credits and deductions to individuals to create “portable” benefits that follow from job-to-job or during times of unemployment

* Expanded application of Health Savings Accounts to empower consumers to shop for medical care and control costs, “roll-over” and save health care dollars and expand the use of catastrophic insurance policies

* Tort reform to curtail defensive medicine and place downward pressure on costs associated with frivolous lawsuits and excessive legal wrangling.

Jim Hagedorn is a candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s First Congressional District.