Uninsured nonresidents must prepay for some HCMC services

The Hennepin County board on Tuesday approved a change to Hennepin County Medical Center's admission and treatment policy that will require uninsured individuals who live outside the county to prepay for non-emergency care.

The board said the changes reflect increased burdens on HCMC after the state made dramatic cuts to the General Assistance Medical Care program for low-income, single adults. The change is expected to save HCMC about $500,000.

More patients from other parts of the state have been coming to HCMC for care, but Hennepin County reimburses HCMC only for uncompensated care provided to Hennepin County residents.

Mike Opat, chairman of the Hennepin County board, said poor Minnesotans often seek care at HCMC when other doctors won't see them.

"Their last resort has been Hennepin County Medical Center for outpatient care. And we're just at a point now where we can't necessarily see everybody," Opat said. "We're going to have to have some of the other counties, some of the other hospitals step up a little bit."

The other counties have been notified of the change, which takes effect Jan. 1.

Opat said officials also hope state lawmakers will take note of the change and consider restoring some funding cuts. HCMC has retained funding for its hyberbaric medical unit to treat carbon monoxide poisoning, and also receives funding for its burn center -- both statewide resources, Opat said.

"But those are emergency situations, and for the general care to the poor, the outpatient care, the preventive care, the support has fallen off," he said. "We need people to know that, we need our legislators to know that."

Opat says officials don't want to have to raise property taxes to address cuts from the state.

An exception to the new policy for uninsured non-residents is that follow-up care for post-hospitalization will still be available, as well as any necessary medical service not available in the patient's home county.

HCMC will still provide emergency services to residents of all counties, and medical services will continue to be available to patients with insurance or on state programs.

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