It's little surprise to anyone in the medical industry that private insurance pays hospitals more for treatment than government programs. What's perhaps surprising is when someone in the industry makes a point of saying those privately insured patients should be given priority for treatment.
A new report highlights the comments that Mayo CEO John Noseworthy made to employees this week about preferring private insurance to publicly funded plans like Medicaid and Medicare.
As first reported in the Star Tribune and confirmed later by Mayo, Dr. Noseworthy told his employees, "We’re asking ... if the patient has commercial insurance, or they’re Medicaid or Medicare patients and they’re equal, that we prioritize the commercial insured patients."
Not everyone is critical of that stance.
"Dr. Noseworthy is speaking very bluntly and frankly and what he said is exactly what's happening," said Preston republican state representative Greg Davids, whose legislative district neighbors Mayo's huge campus in Rochester.
Noting the relatively low cost of reimbursement from the public plans, Noseworthy told his employees essentially to prioritize commercially insured patients in order to remain financially sound as an organization.
In a statement released on Friday, Dr. Noseworthy responded to the controversy over his comments.
“Patient medical need will always be the primary factor in determining and setting an appointment. In an internal discussion I used the word ‘prioritized’ and I regret this has caused concerns that Mayo Clinic will not serve patients with government insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth," Dr. Noseworthy said in the statement, noting that about half of the total services Mayo provides is to those who have government insurance.
Noseworthy also said in the statement that fiscal viability is at question in the American health system and, "While these discussions are uncomfortable, they are critical for us to be able to meet the needs of all of our patients."
The Minnesota Department of Human Services commissioner is looking into whether the policy constitutes violations of civil or human rights.
Rep. Davids said the nation's two tier health reimbursement system simply makes those covered by public insurance less valuable to hospitals. One solution, said Davids, is to get more people covered under private insurance.