Mr. President, I rise today in support of the amendment offered by Senator Pryor that calls for an enrollee satisfaction survey for health care plans offered through the exchange. As you know, the exchange will be a series of different policies from which people can choose. What I love about this idea is that for my small businesses and self-employed who are paying 20 percent more than people who work for big businesses right now because they simply cannot leverage their numbers, it is hard for them to get good rates because they are out there on their own, this exchange, where they can choose a number of different policies like Members of Congress can choose from, whether it is Blue Cross or a number of the other choices, they can pick a policy on the exchange.
I serve with Senator Pryor on the Consumer Protection Subcommittee and know that he offers this amendment with the full intent of improving resources for individuals who buy insurance. A satisfaction survey will be a tool to help consumers navigate through the complicated process of purchasing health insurance. The survey results will allow individuals and small businesses to make well-informed health care decisions by comparing current enrollee satisfaction levels among the plans offered through the exchange.
This survey also provides, as Senator Harkin has pointed out, an oversight tool for Congress so we can monitor the progress of the exchange and present information to patients in an open, transparent manner.
As I have said many times, I come from Minnesota, often known as a “medical Mecca.” We are home to the Mayo Clinic. We are home to the University of Minnesota. Countless innovative businesses have contributed groundbreaking medical research that is bettering the lives of patients.
The key to this Minnesota model, where we have some of the highest quality care in the country and some of the lowest costs, is by putting the patient in the driver’s seat. I have been at the Mayo Clinic. I have seen what happens there. It is integrated care with one primary doctor with a group of doctors that work with him, like a quarterback on a football team. They also focus on the patients with satisfaction surveys, keeping the team accountable for what they are doing.
I always say to my colleagues, it is counterintuitive. If you go to a hotel and pay more money, you often get the best room with a view. That is not true with health care in America. You can pay more money and get some of the worst quality care in this country because there is no accountability. That is why these patient surveys, in allowing consumers in this country to look at these different plans and figure out which one is better for them, is the way to go.
In my State, 92 percent are covered by some form of health insurance, and we have done that by learning the importance of transparency and providing quality information to consumers.
In 2004, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit called Minnesota Community Measurement developed a consumer resource called Developed HealthScores. HealthScores is based on information submitted by more than 300 clinics statewide and is available to consumers on an easily accessible Web site.
HealthScores is also used by medical groups and clinics to improve patient care and by employers and patients to provide access to critical information about the quality of health care services.
Researchers at the University of Oregon have studied public reporting efforts and found that public reporting motivates health care providers and insurers to work harder on improving care, largely because of a concern about their reputation.
This is how the private market should work. You cannot just have insurance policies that have a name and not understand what they mean for the consumer. By having these surveys, we are going to be able to understand so a consumer can navigate through and figure out which policy is good, what it offers, what is best for their family.
As we continue our debate on health care, we must remain focused on solutions with outcomes. Public reporting works. Senator Pryor’s amendment ensures that customers are able to voice their approval or disapproval of plans offered by insurance companies and that information will be available to small businesses and individuals to make well-informed decisions about their health care.
How can they make a well-informed decision without knowing what plans are good, what plans are bad, what plans offer? That is why we need this, if we want to make this private market solution work for consumers.
As the experience in Minnesota has shown, public reporting also has the ability to improve quality as well.
HealthScores in Minnesota has forced health plans, medical groups, and employers to focus on a common set of goals. Through this process, patient outcomes have produced dramatic improvements for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
We know already that small businesses are paying too much—up to 18 percent more than large businesses—often forcing small businesses to lay off employees or cut back on their coverage. We all know, from the letters we have gotten in our offices, what the average American families are facing right now with these skyrocketing premiums.
We must provide these patients and these consumers with tools to make informed health care decisions. Not only will we put consumers in the driver’s seat so they can make the decision, we will also have an effect on the entire market. Because if insurance companies think no one is watching them, that consumers can’t figure it out—maybe something has a great name so they go buy it—they will never get the kind of accountability and cost reductions we want.
The lessons from Minnesota have shown that providing consumers with information about their health care has the ability to improve patient satisfaction and drive our system to focus on quality results.
I yield the floor.