Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hold The Mayo

Jeff Jacoby today, on Barack Obama's promise to "help the whole country learn from what [the] Mayo [Clinic] is doing":

Last year, the Mayo Clinic lost $840 million on its Medicare patients. At the Glendale clinic, a Mayo spokesman told Bloomberg News, Medicare reimbursements covered only 50 percent of the cost of treating elderly primary-care patients. Not even the leanest, most efficient medical organization can keep doing business with a program that compels it to eat half its costs.

I can add a bit to Jacoby's conclusions. "What Mayo is doing" recently has included slashing the hospital's budget for Alzheimer's research. I had lunch last week with an old friend who teaches at the University of Florida's medical school. Turns out that thanks to Mayo's fiscal cutbacks, UF was able to swoop in and hire virtually every top researcher from the de-funded Mayo program.

That's obviously great for UF (and not too shabby for the Mayo folks who are tired of shoveling snow), but it begs the question: what happens if every research hospital in the country is funded the same way Mayo is? Who's going to be left with the budget to hire researchers when they're all losing untold millions of dollars a year thanks to government-mandated price controls?

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