Mayo Clinic CEO criticized for memo about preferential treatment for privately insured patients

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Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic is fielding criticism from the state health department after it was reported that President and CEO John Noseworthy, MD, said in a video memo to staff that patients with commercial insurance should be prioritized over those with public insurance, according to the Post Bulletin.

"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 enough so … we can be financially strong at the end of the year to continue to advance, advance our mission," Dr. Noseworthy said in the three-minute video message that was intended for Mayo Clinic employees. The video was made in late 2016, according to the report.

Dr. Noseworthy reportedly said that if the health system doesn't grow its commercially insured patient population, it won't have enough income to "pay our staff, pay the pensions, and so on," according to the Post Bulletin.

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper told the Post Bulletin she was disturbed after reading an article published Wednesday morning in the Star Tribune about the video. Ms. Piper oversees the agency that manages the state's Medicaid program, MinnesotaCare.

"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," Ms. Piper said Wednesday, according to the Post Bulletin. "We have a lot of questions for Mayo Clinic about how and if and through what process this directive from Dr. Noseworthy is being implemented across their health system."

Mayo Clinic issued a statement to address the negative reaction to Dr. Noseworthy's memo, according to the Post Bulletin:

"Mayo Clinic has always been committed to serving patients who need us the most, regardless of insurance coverage. Across Mayo, beneficiaries of government programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, make up about 50 percent of the total services we provide. Balancing payer mix is complex and isn't unique to Mayo Clinic. It affects much of the industry, but it's often not talked about. That's why we feel it is important to talk transparently about these complex issues with our staff."

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