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Ars Technica and the Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported that Mayo Clinic is considering prioritizing patient care with private insurance over those with Medicare and Medicaid.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (which oversees Minnesota Medicaid), stated:

“Fundamentally, it’s our expectation at DHS that Mayo Clinic will serve our enrollees in public programs on an equal standing with any other Minnesotan that walks in their door…We have a lot of questions for Mayo Clinic about how and if and through what process this directive from Dr. Noseworthy (Mayo’s CEO) is being implemented across their system.”

No need to speculate about the reasons. It’s about cash flow.

Dr. Noseworthy said in a video to Mayo employees:

“We’re asking…if a patient has commercial insurance, or they’re Medicaid or Medicare patients and they’re equal, that we prioritize the commercial insured patients enough so…we can be financially strong at the end of the year.”

Mayo has stated ~50% of its patients are beneficiaries of government programs. And Mayo has had a recent surge of 3.7% in Medicaid patients.

“If we don’t grow our commercially insured patients, we won’t have income at the end of the year to pay our staff, pay the pensions, and so on…So, we’re looking for a really mild or modest change of a couple percentage points to shift that balance.”

In 2016, Mayo reported $475 million in profit (or more accurately net operating income).

Whether or not Mayo makes a profit is not the point of this post. If any healthcare institution cannot make a profit and pay its bills, it will soon be unable to provide services for anyone.

The point is how Mayo delivered its message.

Mayo Clinic posts a document Rights and Responsibilities of Patients on its website which includes this term:

“Access to care: Individuals shall be given impartial access to treatment or accommodations that are available or medically indicated regardless of race, creed, sex, national origin, cultural or spiritual values, disability or source of payment.”

PR 101: Before you launch a program that will likely be controversial, make sure it jives with your organization’s pre-existing messaging.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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