Minnesota regulators not happy with Mayo Clinic response to charges of patient cherry-picking

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Minnesota regulators want a more decisive disavowal from Mayo Clinic in the wake of a patient cherry-picking controversy.

Minnesota state regulators aren't satisfied with Mayo Clinic’s response to the backlash that followed reports that it cherry-picked patients with commercial insurance.

Representatives of the state’s Department of Human Services sent a letter to the system’s CEO John Noseworthy, M.D., asking him to make a clear statement the neither he nor Mayo Clinic intend to prioritize patients with commercial health plans over those with Medicare or Medicaid coverage, according to an article from Medscape Medical News.

"I remain concerned that Mayo has yet to offer the community a strong, clear position on the equal treatment of patients on Medicaid," Nathan Moracco, assistant commissioner of DHS, wrote.

Noseworthy and Mayo Clinic came under fire last month after it was reported that he gave a speech to his staff urging them to prioritize patients with private insurance. The system issued a statement clarifying that Noseworthy meant that they should also take the type of insurance into consideration if patients can receive comparable care elsewhere and that medical need was still the main factor in its decision-making process.

Mayo might have suffered some backlash for this incident--but hospitals, health systems and physician practices all struggle to balance payer mix--money from well-insured patients helps pay for those with public insurance and offset bad debts and charity care. 

Related: One-third of docs would like to cherry-pick patients

Noseworthy himself later issued a statement saying he regrets his choice of the word “prioritized,” as it suggested that the system would give preference to people with commercial insurance. Despite those comments, Noseworthy’s speech was delivered as the system hit a financial skid, and he said that a 3.7% increase in Medicaid patients was a tipping point for Mayo.

Noseworthy responded to DHS’ letter that Medicaid patients in Minnesota would continue to receive the same care as the commercially insured, Medscape reported.