Attorney General settlement leads to further relief for Hutchinson Hospital patients
June 14, 2021
June 11, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that an October 2020 settlement agreement with Hutchinson Health has resulted in $184,000 in medical debt forgiveness for affected patients and the opportunity for certain patients to receive a 40% discount on outstanding medical bills, if that debt is fully paid by June 30, 2021. The Assurance of Discontinuance, previously announced last October, required Hutchinson to restore more favorable hospital billing terms that it had unilaterally terminated for many of its patients. According to the Assurance, Hutchinson’s actions had led to ballooning payments and patient defaults.
The Attorney General’s office launched its investigation under Minnesota law and a regulatory agreement that the Office holds with Minnesota’s nonprofit hospitals, collectively referred to as the “Hospital Agreement.”
“Hutchinson Health’s settlement with my office was a positive step forward in helping Hutchinson’s patients afford their lives and get the high-quality medical care that all Minnesotans deserve. I’m pleased to see the positive, tangible results that the settlement has had so far, and that Hutchinson has taken additional steps to remedy any harm that patients experienced due to its actions,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I expect that Minnesota’s nonprofit hospitals will conduct their billing practices in accordance with the law, their charitable mission, and their agreement with this office.”
Attorney General’s settlement with Hutchinson Health
The 2020 settlement required Hutchinson to restore favorable hospital billing terms that it had unilaterally terminated for many of its patients, which had the effect of increasing their monthly medical bills beyond what patients had agreed to pay. The settlement required Hutchinson to provide affected patients with the lowest available monthly payment to which they were entitled between their old and new monthly payment amounts. As a result, since the settlement, Hutchinson has forgiven $184,000 in debt for affected patients.
Hutchinson is also offering certain patients carrying medical debt incurred prior to November 1, 2019, a 40% discount on the remaining balance if they fully satisfy such debt by June 30, 2021. Patients who have medical debt from Hutchinson Hospital from before November 1, 2019, should review their most recent bill and contact Hutchinson as they may be eligible for this 40% discount. Hutchinson’s patient financial advocates can be reached at (320) 484-4493.
Under the Attorney General’s settlement with Hutchinson, patients who are unable to pay off their bill by June 30, 2021, will still get to keep the lowest available monthly payment to which they were entitled between their old and new monthly payment amounts.
Under the Hospital Agreement, Hutchinson also offers financial assistance to eligible patients and an uninsured discount to patients who do not have insurance. Patients should contact Hutchinson if they believe they may qualify for these options.
Minnesota Hospital Agreement
The Hospital Agreement — an agreement between all nonprofit Minnesota hospitals and the Minnesota Attorney General’s office that has been in effect since 2005 and is now regularly renegotiated every five years — protects patients against aggressive billing and debt collection practices by Minnesota nonprofit hospitals and requires that they meet certain standards of conduct imposed by their charitable missions. Among many others, the Hospital Agreement’s provisions include:
• Hospitals must offer a reasonable payment plan to patients who are unable to pay the full amount of their bill before sending them to collections.
• Hospitals, after entering into a reasonable payment plan with a patient, may not refer debt to a collection agency if the patient makes payments in accordance with the terms of that payment plan agreed to by the hospital.
• Hospitals must not charge uninsured patients more than they charged their “most favored insurer” for treatment and “shall apply the same percentage discount . . . for insured treatment that [they] would apply to charges incurred by a policyholder of its most favored insurer.”
• Hospitals must adopt a zero-tolerance policy for abusive, harassing, oppressive, or misleading language or collections conduct when collecting medical debts.
The Hospital Agreement will next be renegotiated in 2022.
Information for consumers
If you think you have been the victim of unfair or unreasonable medical billing or debt collection practices, please refer to the Attorney General’s publications Medical Billing Pointers and Debt Collection Fact Sheet, available on the Attorney General’s website at https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Publications.asp.
You may also submit an online complaint form on the Attorney General’s website at http://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Complaint.asp. For additional information, you may also contact the Attorney General’s Office:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 596-3353 (Metro Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota)