The Tale of Two Waiting Rooms


Like the old whore houses of the Wild West, patients at the Mayo Clinic may be directed to one of two waiting rooms. In the good ole days, upon entering the local cat house one was directed to one of two waiting rooms. The room on the left was for “second rate citizens” and the room to the right was saved for “1st class citizens” such as lawyers, doctors, and the wealthy.

Mayo Clinic to give preference to privately insured over Medicaid, Medicare patients

Written by Ayla Ellison (Twitter | Google+)  | March 16, 2017 | Print | Email

Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, MD, told employees in a recent speech that the Rochester, Minn.-based system will “prioritize” patients with private insurance over Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries if the patients have similar conditions and seek care at the same time, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“We’re asking … if the patient has commercial insurance, or they’re Medicaid or Medicare patients and they’re equal, that we prioritize the commercial insured patients enough so … we can be financially strong at the end of the year to continue to advance, advance our mission,” Dr. Noseworthy said in the videotaped speech, according to the report.

Dr. Noseworthy said Mayo will continue to take all patients, regardless of payer source, and the policy will not apply to patients seeking emergency care.

Mayo’s move to slightly shift its payer mix indicates the financial pressures Mayo and other health systems across the nation are facing due in part to federal health reform. Under the ACA, Medicaid enrollment has dramatically increased, but Medicaid typically pays much less for medical care than private insurers.

In a statement to STAT, Mayo said Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries make up about 50 percent of its patient population.

“Balancing payer mix is complex and isn’t unique to Mayo Clinic. It affects much of the industry, but it’s often not talked about. That’s why we feel it is important to talk transparently about these complex issues with our staff. We will continue to discuss these complicated issues and work to find solutions that benefit our patients,” said Mayo in the statement to STAT.