Allina Health not alone in refusing treatment for indebted patients, Lown Institute says

Minneapolis-based Allina Health System's move to turn away patients with outstanding debt is a cost-saving measure is not uncommon, according to the Lown Institute.

Allina provides emergency care to indebted patients, but they can be cut off for other services if they have a certain amount of unpaid debt, The New York Times found. Allina confirmed to the Times that it cut off patients only if they have at least $1,500 of unpaid debt three separate times. 

A spokesperson for Allina told Becker's in an email that care interruption for nonemergency, outpatient care, not hospital services.

A 2022 investigation from KFF Health News found 55 hospitals allow denials of nonemergency care for patients with medical debt, and 22 said the practice is allowed but not current practice. 

Allina's refusal of care for indebted patients could contribute to medical debt, the Lown Institute said in a June 2 report. Allina is a nonprofit health system and is required to offer financial assistance to patients who cannot afford services. However, there are no federal regulations regarding how much hospitals have to spend on financial assistance or who can be eligible. When groups refuse care, it can make it harder for patients to get help.

According to the Lown Institute, Allina skirted $266 million in taxes in 2020 from its nonprofit status and spent $57 million on financial assistance and community investment. It could have spent $209 million more to reach its tax exemption value.

Note: This article was updated to include a comment from an Allina spokesperson.

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