Congressman Bruce Braley says “very good progress” is being made on reform plans that he says will ultimately increase the payments Iowa hospitals and doctors get for providing care to elderly patients. For decades Medicare, the government-paid health care program for the nation’s elderly, has paid Iowa health care providers less than those located in the nation’s large urban centers.

“Taking into account of all the challenges that are faced with putting together comprehensive studies and a national summit, I feel like we’re making very good progress on moving the ball forward on all of the components of what we negotiated with the administration and Secretary Sebelius,” Braley says.

Braley,a Democrat from Waterloo, met this morning with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius announced she’s commissioned the first of two Institute of Medicine studies to chart a plan for basing Medicare reimbursement rates on the quality of care rather than where the care is provided.

Braley is also pressing to get Iowans on a new, 15-member national board that’s charged with evaluating what services Medicare pays for, and how to cut costs. Braley suggests the Iowans could show the country’s urban health centers how to do things more economically.

“We’re going to be working very hard to try to identify people, hopefully from Iowa, for the Independent Payment Advisory Board who have a deep understanding of how these inequities existed for so long and making sure that we’re placing great emphasis on getting the best quality care for the lowest possible cost,” Braley says. “And Iowans have demonstrated a strong leadership role in making that happen.”

Each of the 15 members of that new board would serve six year terms, after they win confirmation to the post in the U.S. Senate. The board will have broad powers and it will be hard for the president or congress to make changes in the board’s recommendations.