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La Crosse Tribune - Kind, Walz Praise Health Bill's Passage

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Now that the House of Representatives has had its historic 220-215 vote for health care reform, the battle of the news releases has resumed in earnest.

Supporters of the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion plan have argued that the current situation leaves 15 percent of Americans without health insurance and unfairly discriminates against Midwest hospitals and clinics.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said, "Comprehensive health care reform is long overdue because the current system is unsustainable."

Kind and Minnesota 1st District Rep. Tim Walz, D-Mankato, had fought to change the way Medicare reimburses geographically - making more of a level playing field for Midwestern providers.

And they also got Democratic leaders to put into the bill a plan to study how to reimburse hospitals and clinics based on quality of care rather than the quantity of procedures done.

Walz said, "The current fee-for-service payment model in Medicare perversely encourages health care providers to perform unnecessary procedures and tests."

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Kind echoed those sentiments.

"I led a coalition of like-minded colleagues to change" from a volume-based to a quality-based payment system.

He said anywhere from $700 billion to $800 billion is spent on tests and procedures that don't improve patient outcomes.

"One third of all health care dollars are going to procedures that don't work," he said.

Although the bill would spend $1.2 trillion during the next 10 years, Kind said a Congressional Budget Office report found that the bill would cut the national deficit by $104 billion over the same period and continue to reduce the deficit in the following 10 years.

The CBO report said those were preliminary figures.

Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, who is running against Kind in 2010, issued a statement before the vote calling on Kind to vote no.

"To pass a plan that puts a huge burden on businesses thereby stifling job growth in the wake of 10.2 percent unemployment is not right," Kapanke said.

But Kind argued that the spending reforms included in the bill - especially the proposed changes in funding for quality-based care - would reduce health spending.

"If anyone is interested in seeing a balanced budget again ... you've got to rein in those costs," Kind said.


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