Four Minnesota health systems voluntarily agreed to cap the prices they charge uninsured patients at their 18 hospitals and adopt debt-collection reforms. Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch praised the two-year deal and pledged to enforce its terms. The systems are Allina Hospitals & Clinics, Minneapolis; HealthEast Care System, St. Paul; North Memorial Health Care, Robbinsdale; and Park Nicollet Health Services, St. Louis Park. Under the deal, patients with an annual household income of less than $125,000 will be charged no more than the amount paid by the largest insurer by revenue at each hospital. The agreement applies to uninsured patients and to noncovered services for insured patients. Other reforms include: patients unable to pay a bill at once must be offered a payment plan or charity care before hospitals can sue for collection, and a "zero tolerance" for abusive debt-collection practices. In early April, Hatch settled an investigation into the billing and collection practices of a fifth system, Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, which agreed to reform its practices and give uninsured patients discounts. An estimated 400,000 Minnesota residents are uninsured. -- by Melanie Evans
Minn. systems adopt billing plan in pact with state
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