Each time I send out the THCB Reader, our newsletter that summarizes the best of THCB (Sign up here!) I include a brief tidbits section. Then I had the brainwave to add them to the blog. They’re short and usually not too sweet! –Matthew Holt
Lots of news about bad behavior in health care this week, with real shots about patient & staff safety at home care company Papa, and Grail misinforming 400 people that they had cancer. But the prize for tone deafness this week comes from another very well funded health care provider system being heartless to its poorest patients.
This week it’s Allina, a Minnesota “nice” system which actually amended its Epic system so that clinicians could literally not book appointments or provide care to patients who owed Allina money. Clinicians on the sharp end of this were so appalled that they went on the record about their own employer to NY Times’ reporter Sarah Kliff. The most egregious example was a doctor unable to write a prescription for a kid that had scabies–an infectious parasitic disease–who was sharing one bed with two other kids!
Of course Allina also is on the low end of charity care provision (below 1% of revenues). In contrast ten employees make more than $1m a year and another 10 make more than $500,000.
We all know about egregious private equity funds investing in payday loans and other scummy outfits that prey on the poor. Turns out that if you let a non-profit hospital become beholden to its financial, rather than moral, north star, it starts to behave in a similar manner. Allina, of course, had a smidge under $4bn in its “investment reserve” at the end of 2021. It’s by no means special. UPMC has over $7bn in its reserves (unclear if this includes the investments it has made in startups), while Ascension has a formal private equity fund that controversially paid its former CEOs over $10m as part of its $18bn reserves.
Somehow having hedge funds that provide a little health care service on the side doesn’t leave the best taste in the mouth for how we should be organizing this health care system.