A healthcare provider that operates more than 100 hospitals and clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin finds itself in the spotlight today for its policy of withholding care from patients who have unpaid medical debts.
Allina Health System will treat any individual in its emergency rooms, but services can be withheld from patients, including children, if they have at least $4,500 of unpaid medical debts. And the provider will not restart treating the patients until the debt is paid off entirely, according to a published report.
The report goes into detail about appointments that are canceled automatically by the provider’s system if an individual exceeds the allowable debt threshold. Accounts are locked when the limit is exceeded and doctors are prohibited from writing prescriptions or providing continuing care.
A spokeswoman for Allina said that cutting off care to patients was “rare” and that the company provides patients with information about applying for charity care and financial assistance.
The article highlights the non-profit status of Allina and that the amount of charity care it provides is less than the nationwide average, and is the latest in a growing line of articles aimed at villainizing healthcare providers for their approaches to individuals who do not or are not able to pay their healthcare bills.
The policy was originally created in 2006, according to the report, but was suspended during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been restarted. The policy “tells staff to ‘cancel any future appointments the patient has scheduled at any clinic.’ ”