During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney tried to give a "shout out" to the Cleveland Clinic and completely missed the mark. Romney was probably hoping to score some points with Ohio voters, since he’s trailing in that key swing state.
President Barack Obama mentioned the Clinic first, saying “…at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average.”
In his response, Romney says, “Your example of the Cleveland Clinic is my case in point, along with several others I could describe. This is the private market. These are small -- these are enterprises competing with each other, learning how to do better and better jobs.”
We’ll get to the big picture in a moment, but let’s stop right here briefly. Romney calls the Cleveland Clinic “small,” and then he seems to catch himself. For the record, the Cleveland Clinic gets more than four million patient visits per year. It’s got 2,800 physicians and scientists on staff. It’s not “small.”
Romney refers to the Cleveland Clinic as an enterprise “competing” with other enterprises in a private health market. To Mitt Romney, health care is a business. He thinks the Cleveland Clinic competes with other health care providers.
Romney goes on: “Mayo Clinic is doing it superbly well, Cleveland Clinic, others. But the right answer is not to have the federal government take over health care and start mandating to the providers across America, telling a patient and a doctor what kind of treatment they can have. That’s the wrong way to go. The private market and individual responsibility always work best.”
Here’s why this is an embarrassing blunder: The best, most talented doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, the ones Mitt Romney thinks are so great, totally and completely disagree with this view of health care.
To them, your health is not a business. Health care providers don’t want to compete for your dollar. They want to help you stay well or get well.
Dr. Steven Nissen, the chair of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told Cleveland.com, "Driven by these perverse economic incentives, we are doing a lot of procedures to people that they don't need. When medicine became a business, we lost our moral compass." (emphasis mine)
One of the keys to the Cleveland Clinic’s success is that it pays providers a fixed salary so they don’t feel like they have to compete or add treatments to bump up their paychecks. Does Romney agree with that?
The Affordable Care Act creates networks to bring together healthcare providers. It’s similar to the Cleveland Clinic’s process of integrating care. Does Romney agree with that?
Maybe Romney didn’t know that the Cleveland Clinic plays a key role in a scathing new documentary debuting tonight called “Escape Fire”. In it, Dr. Andrew Weil and others explain why the health care system we all grew up with can’t continue to work and may actually be bad for our health, and even deadly. Here’s the trailer:
Mitt Romney praised the Cleveland Clinic, but doesn’t support its money-saving philosophies. It’s an empty compliment. It’s just name-dropping. And he should be embarrassed about petting an institution he’d take apart if he understood it better.