U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today hosted Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in La Crosse. The Secretary, joined by Rep. Kind, Governor Doyle, and Rep. Tim Walz (MN) met with a group of 50 local seniors to discuss benefits to seniors -- including free preventative care, better primary care and the closing of the donut hole - as part the Affordable Care Act. They also met with doctors and administrators at Gundersen Lutheran Health System, addressed the staff and toured the quality care facility.
"Health care reform ensures the people of western Wisconsin have access to affordable health care no matter their age, income or occupation," said Rep. Kind. "It also provides security for our seniors, strengthening Medicare and closing the prescription drug donut hole. I am pleased to have the Secretary visit western Wisconsin to speak directly to our local seniors, answer questions and clear up any misunderstandings. Having fought to change the way we pay for health care in this country, I'm pleased the Secretary is also able to spend time at Gundersen Lutheran, which served as a national model for quality care and lower costs throughout health care reform."
Secretary Sebelius, along with Rep. Kind, Rep. Walz (MN) and Governor Doyle, addressed concerns and answered questions from over 75 local seniors regarding the Affordable Care Act at the Southside Neighborhood Center in La Crosse. The discussion featured topics such as the Affordable Care Act's impact on Medicare - including the $250 checks, which begin going out this month, to seniors currently stuck in the "donut hole" - as well as efforts to preserve Medicare and crack down on fraud.
"The Affordable Care Act improves the health security of Wisconsin seniors through greater savings and better access to quality health care and gives us new tools to strengthen Medicare and fight fraud," Secretary Sebelius said. "As some of the important early benefits of the new law take effect, it's critical that seniors have accurate information. For example, beginning next week, $250 rebate checks will be mailed to eligible seniors enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan who reached the donut hole on or before March 31, 2010. We look forward to continuing to work to ensure that seniors can take full advantage of these benefits and can also help us prevent Medicare fraud."
"Through national health care reform, we have a tremendous opportunity to build on our successes in Wisconsin," Governor Doyle said. "I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Sebelius and the Obama Administration, as well as our Congressional Delegation, as we move forward on national health care reform that will help cover more than 125,000 uninsured people in Wisconsin, will save taxpayers money, and help Wisconsin's seniors afford prescription drugs."
The group also met with doctors and administrators, including CEO Dr. Jeff Thompson, at Gundersen Lutheran, addressed the staff briefly, and toured the Gundersen Lutheran Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care to observe their high quality, low-cost integrated health care delivery model. The health system served as a national model for high quality, low-cost care throughout the recent health care debate. With the help of Gundersen Lutheran and Mayo Health System hospitals in western Wisconsin, including Franciscan Skemp, Rep. Kind, and other members of the Quality Care Coalition were able to secure provisions in the health care bill to reimburse providers based on the quality of care delivered, transforming our health care system into one that puts quality before quantity, keeps patient interests in mind, and keeps costs under control.
"Rep. Kind and I championed the pay-for-value provisions of the new health care law because they promote the kind of excellent coordinated care that Gunderson and other Midwest providers offer their patients. These reforms will incentivize doctors across the country to ensure seniors get better faster and stay healthier longer while saving taxpayer dollars on Medicare," said Rep. Walz. "I'm grateful that the Secretary was able to join us today to share information about these improvements to Medicare with seniors and the doctors here at Gunderson who care for them."
"It was a great honor for Gundersen Lutheran staff members to have Secretary Sebelius and Congressman Kind visit," said Dr. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Gundersen Lutheran Health System. "The ability to show her our work delivering innovative high quality care and share our goals for the future was a unique opportunity."
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law March 23, 2010 by President Obama. The groundbreaking legislation will expand health insurance to millions of Americans while putting an end to the worst insurance industry practices and incentivizing health care providers to adopt the high quality, low cost care models employed by Gundersen Lutheran, Mayo Clinic, and other leaders in the industry. More information about the law is available at www.healthreform.gov.