HealthPartners No-Pay Policy Bodes Ill for Patients

(St. Paul, Minnesota) - HealthPartner's plan to withhold payment for medical procedures in which a medical error occurs will be detrimental to their patients, says Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC).

"This is not about better care, this is about keeping the cash," says Twila Brase, president of CCHC, a St. Paul-based health care policy group

"'To err is human. To not pay, divine' appears to be the newest bottom line strategy for HealthPartners," she adds.

Assisted by Minnesota's new law requiring medical error reporting--a law that legislators in 2003 promised would not be punitive--HealthPartners has devised a way to not pay doctors and hospitals for patient care, charges Brase.

"The definition of 'medical error' is not totally clear, even in the law. HealthPartners may be able to define the term to benefit their bottom line. Even worse, it appears that they may refuse to pay for anything that occurred before or after the appointed 'error' - the entire medical episode, from admission to discharge," says Brase.

"If an abdominal cancer was removed, but an instrument accidently left inside the abdomen, should all treatment be negated as an 'error' and HealthPartners set free of any responsibility for payment?" Brase asks.

"What other industry when entrusted with money to pay for a service is allowed to keep it for themselves?" Brase asks. "Since an error could happen somewhere down the line, we expect this policy to lead to less care being given all the way up," she adds.

When Ms. Brase contacted HealthPartners today for a copy of the news release on this new initiative, she was informed that no news release is planned. There are no specifics or details on the HealthPartners webside. Communications staff at the health plan told her that the initiative was announced at last week's annual employer forum for brokers.

"HealthPartners says that this is just the first step. Once the State begins issuing report cards on physician and hospital compliance with government-issued, HMO-designed treatment directives, we expect their non-payment rationale to include 'poor scores,'" says Brase.

"HealthPartners is instituting health care rationing. Whatever the rationale, no payment leads to no care," warns Brase.

"One does not need a crystal ball to see that less care is in the future of HealthPartner's patients.'" Brase says.

Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President
Phone: 651-646-8935 (office)
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