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Chicago Cubs must decide how to allocate innings over the final 2½ weeks as Keegan Thompson nears a return to the pitching staff

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Chicago Cubs Must Decide How To Allocate Innings Over The Final 2½ Weeks As Keegan Thompson Nears A Return To The Pitching Staff
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As the innings in the 2022 season continue to dwindle, the Chicago Cubs face decisions.

Only 15 games remain after the Cubs opened a three-game series Monday night in Miami. The team is plotting how to line up the rotation for the final stretch and determining the best way to allocate innings.

Right-hander Keegan Thompson (low back tightness) is expected to be activated from the injured list in the next few days, manager David Ross said Monday. Thompson will be used out of the bullpen, at least initially. Ross noted that the Cubs must figure out the other moving parts, in both the rotation and the bullpen, for a corresponding roster move.

It’s one of the trickiest components for the Cubs to work out as they close out the season, already eliminated from postseason contention. They want Thompson to finish strong and add to his 104⅓ big-league innings while also ensuring he gets to the offseason healthy.

Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy’s goal is to get right-hander Hayden Wesneski at least one more start and then re-evaluate the situation, possibly looking to use him in a piggyback setup. Wesneski limited the Colorado Rockies to one run and three hits in seven innings Saturday in his first major-league start. He didn’t walk a better and struck out seven.

“I know we have some moving parts in terms of how we’re trying to spread out the workload for everybody over those last couple of weeks,” Hottovy said Monday. “We’re just trying to be creative about how we piece this together and make sure we’re smart.”

Left-hander Justin Steele (low back strain) is still not fully healthy as time works against him to get back into game action. Steele, who hasn’t pitched for the Cubs since Aug. 26, is expected to throw a bullpen session during the seven-game trip to Miami and Pittsburgh.

The Cubs and Steele must balance what is smart and realistic in a potential return. Steele has told the Cubs he wants to have one more big-league outing before the offseason, and Hottovy didn’t rule out that possibility.

However, Steele must check a lot of boxes, Hottovy said, before a return comes to fruition. Aside from how Steele feels physically during and after his bullpen sessions, the data the Cubs collect will show whether the metrics align with when he was healthy.

If the Cubs see more cut or run in his stuff, backed by the data recorded, it typically indicates something still isn’t right with a pitcher’s body — in this case Steele’s back.

“Make sure that we’re in a good place so we’re like, ‘OK, we’re going to do it,’” Hottovy said. “Because we know what he’s done. We know the workload, but again there’s just that mental side, like, OK, I’m healthy, I feel good, I can go compete. … There’s a lot of ways we can kind of piece together that last week of the season.

“We’re just trying to rack up good days in a row — not two steps forward, one step back.”

The Cubs will have plenty of multi-inning relief options with Thompson, Adbert Alzolay and, depending on how they employ him, Wesneski. They also want to continue to look at their less experienced relievers. At some point, the Cubs must decide which in-game work to prioritize.

For the series against the Marlins, the Cubs are starting left-hander Wade Miley — who allowed seven runs (three earned) in three innings Monday — right-hander Adrian Sampson on Tuesday and left-hander Drew Smyly on Wednesday. They haven’t announced how the rotation will align for the four-game series against the Pirates.

It remains unclear if shortstop Nico Hoerner or catcher Willson Contreras will rejoin the lineup during the trip. Hoerner remains sidelined after an MRI last week showed a mild to moderate strain in his right triceps.

A left ankle sprain continues to frustrate Contreras, who still feels the effects of his injury when he runs. While running in a straight line felt fine Sunday, Ross said Contreras was challenged by making turns on the bases.

Contreras declined to talk Monday, saying he will speak with reporters once he is back in the lineup. Contreras, a free agent after the season, hasn’t played since Aug. 30 in Toronto.

“Guys that are injured like to play baseball,” Ross said. “You see the end in sight and I think some personalities are like, what’s the point of rushing back, and some personalities are like, I’m pissed I’m hurt, I want to finish, I enjoy playing baseball. I think Wilson falls in that second category of I’m trying to get back, but also I can only do so much on my ankle.

“The thing about the end of the season and where we’re at in the standings, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to rush anything or play at 85% to 90%.”

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Gophers men’s hockey: Captain Brock Faber rallies U to sweep of Lindenwood

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Gophers Men’s Hockey: Captain Brock Faber Rallies U To Sweep Of Lindenwood
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MINNEAPOLIS — The maroon ‘C’ sewn onto the shoulder of Minnesota Gophers defenseman Brock Faber’s sweater designates him as the team’s captain. But in the Gophers’ second game of the season — an unexpected dogfight with first-year program Lindenwood — the letter could stand for “comeback” as well.

Faber had a goal, which was the eventual game-winner, and two assists as Minnesota rallied from a surprising second-period deficit and beat the upstart Lions 6-4 on Sunday evening.

“I hate lessons, and teams like this need lessons, but thank goodness we won the game and we can build off it,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said, praising Faber’s leadership on the bench and on the ice when the game was on the line.

“He was vocal, he was commanding in his play, and he produced, and that’s what leaders do,” Motzko said. “And he just turned 20 years old. That’s a big step for him, but he’s got the heart of a lion.”

After Lindenwood forged a 4-4 tie early in the third on a power-play goal, defenseman Mike Koster set up a Bryce Brodzinski goal to retake the lead, then Koster scored his first of the season on a power play to provide some breathing room.

It was a night of firsts for both teams. For Lindenwood, there was a first goal and a first lead, albeit short-lived. For Minnesota, freshmen Brody Lamb and Connor Kurth got their first collegiate goals, and Gophers goalie Owen Bartoszkiewicz got his first collegiate win in his first start with 27 saves.

The Gophers (2-0-0) led 2-1 after a penalty-filled opening period, which saw Kurth and Matthew Knies score after setup passes by Faber, but Kyle Jeffers got the Lions on the board on a power play. Lindenwood began the second period with an impressive push, peppering Bartoszkiewicz on a power play, then tying the game on a breakaway goal by Hunter Johannes — one of three Minnesotans on the Lions’ roster.

“We had our hands full. There’s a difference between being emotional and playing with emotion, and like anything else, you want to learn,” Lions coach Rick Zombo said. “We had ourselves set up to win the third period. All it takes was one goal. …This team believed it had an opportunity to potentially knock off the Minnesota Gophers. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime for these kids.”

Lindenwood (0-2-0) scored twice in the second to briefly take a 3-2 lead before Faber spurred the rally. Starting goalie Matt Ladd had 39 saves for the Lions in the loss.

IMPERFECT DEBUT, BUT A WIN

Bartoszkiewicz joined the Gophers in January last season, coming over from Youngstown in the USHL after Jack LaFontaine unexpectedly signed a pro contract in the middle of the season. But Sunday was his first time on the ice in a game, and he got a win, even if his coach saw room to improve.

“It was a struggle. He hadn’t been in there. The biggest thing was he got through 60 minutes. He hadn’t been in there in a long time, and he needed to do that,” Motzko said. “He needed to fight through and he did.”

Koster noted that it was the first time he had played defense in front of anyone other than Justen Close or LaFontaine and offered an apology to Bartoszkiewicz for the breakaway the Gophers gave up in the second period.

“We kind of hung him out to dry a few times tonight, one breakaway for sure,” Koster said. “He very much earned the first win of his career, so we made sure to say congratulations and stuff. He’s been working really hard, so it’s cool to see all his hard work pay off. He made some big saves to keep us in, or it definitely could’ve been a different game.”

SUNDAY STRANGENESS

When Faber was a freshman, the season started in November with home games played before crowds of 150 or less as the pandemic had college sports locked down, and games played on midweek nights were not uncommon. Going back to a more traditional Friday-Saturday schedule last season, Faber said playing on a Sunday was an oddity.

“Normally Sunday you lay on the couch and watch football all day. It’s a lot different today though and (I have) class in the morning, class tomorrow night,” Faber said. “It is what it is, I guess, but I definitely prefer Friday-Saturday.”

Even with 3M Arena at Mariucci roughly half full for both Lindenwood games, Faber praised the team’s rookies for getting their feet wet and getting used to a college hockey atmosphere a little bit over the season’s first weekend.

“They were all great. They’re all so unique in the way they play and I just think back to when I was a freshman, how nervous I was playing in front of nobody,” Faber said. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through, but it’s a special group, for sure. There are a lot of things we need to learn as a hockey team, but those guys will catch right up to pace soon and we’ll keep building every day.”

EXTRA PUCKS

The parents of Lindenwood freshman defenseman Joe Prouty only needed to travel 20 miles or so, from their home in Burnsville, Minn., to see his college debut. As they enjoyed a pregame beer in the parking lot north of the rink, they joked that on Saturday and Sunday evenings they had conducted the first tailgate parties in the history of Lindenwood hockey.

Up next for the Gophers is a home-and-home series with in-state rival Minnesota State Mankato. They have not faced the Mavericks in the regular season since November 2018, but MSU has ended Minnesota’s last two seasons in the NCAA playoffs, including a 4-1 win by the Mavs in the Frozen Four semifinals in Boston last April. The teams play Friday night in Minneapolis and Saturday night in Mankato.

Healthy scratches for Sunday’s game for the Gophers were defensemen Matt Staudacher and Carl Fish and forwards Colin Schmidt and John Mittelstadt.

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Braves finish sweep of Mets, add to division lead

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Braves Finish Sweep Of Mets, Add To Division Lead
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ATLANTA — It was the biggest moment of the season and the Mets failed to meet it.

When the Mets landed in Atlanta, they had a one-game lead on the Braves in the NL East. They left two games back after a sweep at the hands of their division rivals. They fell 5-3 on Sunday night in the series finale at Truist Park, capping a disappointing weekend that may have sealed their fate as a wild card team.

If this was a litmus test to see how the Mets (98-61) stack up next to the defending World Series champs in crunch time, then it’s clear that this squad isn’t there yet. They were outplayed in nearly every facet of the game. They had three aces lined up — two of which are some of the best big-game pitchers on the planet — and they failed the test against the Braves (100-59).

Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt combined for 11 earned runs over 14 1/3 innings. These are the types of games these pitchers were born for, and they couldn’t come through.

But it’s not that simple. Atlanta’s lineup is one of the best and deepest in baseball. Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson hit home runs in all three games of the series, with Swanson taking all three starters deep.

The Mets, on the other hand, scored only seven runs over 27 innings. That’s not enough for any pitcher, let alone world-class ones like deGrom and Scherzer. Much has been made about how the Braves are homer-heavy and the Mets manufacture runs, but they didn’t manufacture many.

That point was underscored in the third inning when they scored two runs and stranded two runners. The Mets put nine runners on over the first three innings, driving up Charlie Morton’s pitch count. But they plated only three of them.

Daniel Vogelbach homered off Morton to lead off the second inning and tie the game at 1-1. Jeff McNeil, who is chasing former Braves and current Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman for the batting title, led off the third with one of his own. Morton then gave up three straight singles to score Pete Alonso. The bottom of the order went down in order and the Mets came away with only a one-run lead.

It wasn’t enough.

Former Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud blew the game open in the bottom of the inning with a two-run single off of Bassitt. Olson’s third homer of the game came off Seth Lugo in the sixth.

Bassitt (15-9) was shaky from the start and lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up four earned runs on three hits, walking three and hitting one. Morton (10-6) limited the Mets to three runs over 4 1/3 innings and the bullpen blanked them the rest of the way. Kenley Jansen earned his 29th save and his third in as many nights.

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Mets mulling over bullpen decisions as postseason nears

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ATLANTA — In the midst of the most important week of the regular season, the Mets have also been evaluating players for postseason roles. At the start of the week, the biggest questions were about which relievers they would take and what they would do with the DH spot. Those questions still have not been answered.

David Peterson and Drew Smith pitched well this week, but Tylor Megill wasn’t as strong. Peterson, Megill and Trevor Williams all have value as pitchers who have been stretched out to start at times this season, so they could eat multiple innings from the bullpen if needed. But the Mets have to find out if they can trust them in the type of high-leverage situations that typically define the postseason.

“You’re not going to find out in four games,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Most of the guys we’re talking about are probably going to be starters for us next year. But this is about the here and now and trying to put our best foot forward.”

The bullpen has long been short on left-handers with only Peterson and Joely Rodriguez, so that could give Peterson a leg up in the competition.

Peterson was given a tough task Saturday night in a 4-2 loss and passed with flying colors. Coming in during the eighth inning, he had to face left-handed Michael Harris II, right-handed Austin Riley and left-handed Matt Olson. Riley and Olson had homered off Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer on back-to-back nights, and Peterson had to keep runs off the board to be able to give the Mets a chance to come back.

Peterson struck out Harris and allowed a single to Riley. With Olson at the plate, Riley advanced on a wild pitch. But he struck out Olson and former Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud to end the inning.

“If you’re asking about left-handed relievers, can you really survive Riley in between the two left-handers? Can you keep it in the park,” Showalter said. “Things like that. And can you trust him?”

But winning is more important than evaluating right now given that the Mets are still in a battle for the NL East with the Braves. Time is running out so the club will have to be confident with the decisions made.

“You’re not going to know that in five days or 10 days,” Showalter said. “You might think you can. You do what you can to take that information and try to make a good decision. But if anyone tries to tell you they know for sure what’s going to happen when the playoff lights go on, they’re kidding themselves.”

MAPPING IT OUT

In preparation for the final series of the season, the Mets sent pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker back to New York. They will start the first two games of the series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, which begins Monday.

As for whether or not deGrom throws in the regular season finale, that hasn’t been determined yet. However, Showalter and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner have told him to plan on pitching Wednesday for now.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mychal Givens and Tommy Hunter will not have to throw more simulated games. The relievers are eligible to be activated off of the injured list at any time but a roster move would have to be made. The Mets did not have a decision as of Sunday.

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‘SNL’ gets a Manningcast for its first episode of the season

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'Snl' Gets A Manningcast For Its First Episode Of The Season
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“Saturday Night Live” kicked off its 48th season on Saturday night with host Miles Teller as former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and Andrew Dismukes as his brother, Eli.

In the skit, the two were doing an analysis of the season premiere of the NBC variety show.

“Okay, we have a Mar-a-Lago establishment shot,” Dismukes’ Eli said.

“Oh great! Sketch of Trump,” Peyton said of Teller. “A way to mix it all up.”

This led to the two watching a Trump skit featuring James Austin Johnson as the former president.

Peyton (Teller) and Eli (Dismukes) were unhappy with the sketch.

“Okay, time out,” Eli of Dismukes said, interrupting the sketch. “What was that?”

Teller’s Peyton asked why there weren’t any fun Anthony Fauci or Rudy Giuliani impersonations.

“It was all Kate McKinnon,” Dismukes’ Eli told Teller’s Peyton. McKinnon left the show last season.

Bowen Yang then walked into the sketch and missed a line, which the two former fake quarterbacks called.

“He was supposed to step up this year,” Eli of Dismukes said. “But you can tell the pressure is mounting on him.”

Teller’s Peyton said the series was in a “year of rebuilding for sure”.

The two then went over the show’s stats so far, which were “14 joke attempts, 1 sweet laugh, and 3 laughs.”

“Thank goodness they have Kendrick Lamar because that’s the only reason everyone tunes in,” said Peyton of Teller — the joke being that Teller is also the host.

The two then brought in former host Jon Hamm as a guest and asked him what he had seen so far tonight.

“I don’t know, but it’s not comedy,” Hamm said.

Hamm, Teller’s “Top Gun: Maverick” co-star, went on to point out that the show couldn’t even have celebrity hosts anymore.

“Well, I hear they rarely put the host out in the open, so when they do…it’s special,” Teller’s Peyton said.

The entire cast then spoke the show’s tagline, “Live…from New York.” It’s Saturday night!”

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Medical bills can be crippling. Mayo Clinic’s charity care may be lacking

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Ge Bai Is An Accounting And Health Policy Professor At Johns Hopkins University, Who Published Research Reports On Charity Care In 2021 And 2022. (Contributed / Ge Bai)
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The bills from Mayo Clinic were piling up, and Megan Bass felt hopeless.

Bass visited Mayo Clinic in October 2021 to get a medical device inserted to resolve her chronic bladder issues. After the surgery, she received a $3,110 bill. Just the cost of meeting her $3,000 health insurance deductible would deplete her savings.

“It’s not the most responsible thing to do, but I would hide my mail because I was too scared to look at it,” said Bass, 22, who works two jobs, as a school paraprofessional and a Kwik Trip cashier in New Prague, Minn. “I avoided my problems until the collection notice arrived.”

Fortunately, as she scrolled through TikTok one day she discovered charity care.

Every nonprofit hospital, including Mayo Clinic, is required by the Affordable Care Act to establish free or discounted care policies, known as “charity care” or “financial assistance,” for eligible, often low-income patients in order to maintain and justify the hospital’s tax-exempt status.

With support from Dollar For, a nonprofit that works with patients to relieve medical debt, Bass applied for charity care through Mayo Clinic and was approved. However, only half of her bill was covered, so Bass submitted an appeal and awaits Mayo Clinic’s decision. Mayo Clinic responded that it cannot comment on an appeal in process.

“It would be incredible if it was completely covered,” Bass said. “It would be a big lift off my shoulders.”

Ge Bai, an accounting and health policy professor who researches charity care at Johns Hopkins University, said what hospitals currently allocate each year toward charity care is insufficient, especially considering the tax subsidies nonprofit hospitals enjoy, and the prevalence of medical debt.

Ge Bai is an accounting and health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University, who published research reports on charity care in 2021 and 2022. (Contributed / Ge Bai)

This is true for Mayo Clinic, where charity care spending, Bai noted, is on the “lower end” compared to other nonprofit hospitals.

U.S. News & World Report, which has ranked Mayo Clinic as the top hospital in the U.S. seven years in a row, described Mayo Clinic’s charity care contributions as “significantly lower than other hospitals” in its 2022 rankings.

In 2021, Mayo Clinic spent 0.34 percent of its expenses on charity care. That percentage is a standard way of measuring how much free care hospitals provide. By this measurement, Mayo Clinic spent less as a percentage on charity care in 2021 than Olmsted Medical Center. In fact, every hospital with available data in the top 10 of U.S. News’ rankings, with the exception of Stanford Hospital, ranked above Mayo Clinic for charity care.

Bai said Mayo Clinic is probably not a “bad actor” like the hospital exposed in a recent charity care investigation by the New York Times. It’s also not alone in its insufficient spending. In recent years, none of the nonprofit hospitals ranked in the top 10 nor any in southeastern Minnesota meets the national average of 2.3%, according to Bai’s 2021 research report. Bai said a quarter of nonprofit hospitals spend less than 0.7%.

“Taxpayers are putting their faith in nonprofit hospitals and subsidizing them with the expectation that they’re benefiting the community and helping vulnerable patients avoid medical debt,” Bai said. “Financially strong nonprofit hospitals need to be doing more to make it a fair exchange.”

INSUFFICIENT CONTRIBUTIONS

Until 2021, Mayo Clinic was contributing almost twice as large a portion of its expenses on charity care — between 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent since 2015.

In 2021, Mayo Clinic spent $49 million on charity care, $40 million less than in 2020, and less than every year for the past 15 years. This drop came despite the fact that its 1.4 million patient volume was consistent with the previous year and its revenue grew by $1.8 billion.

Kelley Luckstein, Mayo Clinic spokeswoman, said the “significant reduction” in 2021 was due to a decreased need for charity care since more patients were covered by Medicaid and recipients of financial assistance through national COVID-19 pandemic relief measures. The Post Bulletin asked for data to determine if fewer people applied for charity care in 2021 compared to 2020, but Mayo Clinic declined to respond, saying it couldn’t get into that level of detail.

“Mayo Clinic is committed to providing high-quality, high-value care for all its patients, and to ensuring that financial considerations are not an obstacle between patients and the care they need,” Luckstein said.

Bai called it a “red flag” that Mayo Clinic decreased its charity care spending at such a rapid pace given the fact that more people struggled financially during the pandemic and Mayo Clinic had more financial leverage with $15.7 billion in revenue — a 13 percent growth in revenue from 2020. Although most of the top 10 hospitals with available data spent less in 2021 than in 2020, Mayo Clinic showed the sharpest decrease.

Minnesota Hospital Association said that it didn’t have complete 2021 data, but that its member hospitals collectively increased charity care spending by 7 percent from 2019 to 2020. Meanwhile, Mayo Clinic, which is not a member of MHA, decreased its spending by 8 percent, or $7 million.

While Luckstein said Mayo Clinic’s spending will likely return to pre-pandemic levels this year, Bai said that’s still not enough.

All financially-strong nonprofit hospitals, not just Mayo Clinic, should be spending more and making charity care more accessible, Bai said. They should be spreading awareness, providing application support and expanding eligibility criteria. Few patients know about charity care now, and those who do know struggle because of the burdensome application process.

Ruth Lande, vice president of hospital relations at RIP Medical Debt, agreed that what hospitals spend is insufficient, but she said it’s unfair to expect hospital charity care to solve a broken medical financial system.

“I think hospitals are unfairly blamed for contributing to medical debt,” said Lande, whose organization works to alleviate medical debt. “Financial assistance is one aspect, but it’s a multifaceted issue. We need to advocate for a new system where people don’t have high deductible plans and where people have affordable health insurance that actually covers everything.”

Erica Dowden, patient advocate lead with Dollar For, said that while she agrees that medical debt is a systemic issue, she doesn’t want to cut hospitals the same slack.

“These nonprofit hospitals receive billions of dollars in tax breaks and are supposed to be a benefit to the community,” Dowden said. “But when you have patients who are thousands of dollars in debt after going to your facility, and they can’t pay it, and they can’t afford to go back for more services because of debt owed, you are no longer a benefit to the community.”

COMMUNITY BENEFIT

“Community benefit” is an Internal Revenue Service standard for all nonprofit hospitals. Mayo Clinic meets this standard in a number of ways besides charity care, such as advancing medical education and operating an emergency room open to all regardless of ability to pay, but Bai said that charity care spending is the only quantifiable factor that the IRS uses to determine if the community benefit standard is being met.

The IRS does not specify a minimum amount that hospitals need to spend towards charity care to maintain their nonprofit status, but Bai said nonprofit hospitals, at a minimum, should contribute to the community at a dollar amount equal to the taxpayer subsidy.

Many nonprofit hospitals miss the mark.

According to the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that recently published its 2022 hospital fair share spending rankings, 83 percent of hospital systems evaluated spent less on charity care and community investment than the estimated value of their tax breaks — what Lown Institute calls a “fair share deficit.” Mayo Clinic’s fair share deficit is $328 million, the 11th worst in the country.

Mayo Clinic disagrees with Lown Institute’s methodology, which does not account for the research and education missions of academic medical centers such as Mayo, and omits other categories of community investment and assistance.

“Charity care is just one of many ways Mayo contributes to patients and communities we serve,” said Justin Furst, a Mayo Clinic spokesman. “In 2021, we provided more than $601 million in unpaid portions of Medicaid and indigent care. We contributed over $11 million in 2021 in the communities we serve to support hundreds of nonprofit organizations, address health needs and assist those in need. In 2020, Mayo committed to spending $100 million within 10 years to end racism, address health disparities, and advance equity and inclusion, and that work continues.”

While Mayo Clinic and other nonprofit hospitals may tout other public benefit spending as proof that they are meeting the “community benefit standard,” Bai said these amounts should not be lumped in with charity care and that charity care alone is the most important factor in determining whether a hospital is fulfilling its obligation to give back to the vulnerable in the community.

“Charity care spending is the most direct reflection of a nonprofit hospital’s charitable actions,” Bai said.

In fact, Bai’s research found nonprofit hospitals, on average, direct a smaller percentage of their expenses towards charity care than for-profit hospitals do, even though for-profit hospitals do not receive favorable tax benefits. She said this is a sign that high-revenue nonprofit hospitals, like Mayo Clinic, could and should be spending more.

“Nonprofit hospitals are always balancing between their financial objectives and their social objectives,” Bai said, “but in many cases, they prioritize their financial goals.”

PART OF THE SOLUTION

After falling out of her bed one morning, Brittany Leary’s knee swelled to four times its normal size. Leary, a child care provider at the Wisconsin Falls YMCA, headed to her local hospital, Aspirus Riverview in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus.

Brittany Leary, 27, Applied For Charity Care After Receiving An Unaffordable Mri Bill For Her Torn Meniscus. (Contributed / Brittany Leary)
Brittany Leary, 27, applied for charity care after receiving an unaffordable MRI bill for her torn meniscus. (Contributed / Brittany Leary)

A few weeks later, the hospital served her with a lab work and MRI bill for $3,340. Her health insurance deductible was $6,500, so she was expected to pay the full cost out of pocket.

Leary and her boyfriend had been saving to buy a house, and she was planning to go back to school to get her bachelor’s degree, but her hospital put her on a $700 per month payment plan — more than her rent payment. Once the bill arrived, she said, she saw her dreams start to fade.

“With that payment plan, a house or school wouldn’t be an option,” Leary said. “It would mean not even being able to go out for a night at a restaurant. It would literally be all the money that I had.”

Unaffordable bills like the ones Leary and Bass received are often unavoidable, and hospital charity care is one of the few options available to alleviate the impact of high medical costs.

Caitlin Donovan, senior director at the Patient Advocate Foundation, said it is especially important given the current landscape of medical debt.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2022 that four in 10 adults in the U.S. have some form of health care debt. In Minnesota, nearly 750,000 adult residents, or 17 percent, have medical bills in collection, according to the 2018 U.S. Financial Capability Study.

Donovan, whose nonprofit provides free case management to anyone diagnosed with a serious or chronic health condition, said that although charity care alone won’t solve medical debt, it’s a crucial component.

“Every hospital should expand its charity care program,” said Donovan. “You can go to a hospital for four hours and come out with a $40,000 bill. It’s life-changing and there’s no protection against that. Charity care offers some relief.”

This was true for Leary, who, with help from Dollar For, applied for and received hospital financial assistance to cover her bill in full.

“It meant the world to me,” Leary said. “I had all these things planned that I didn’t think I could do anymore and once I was approved, I got hope back. I was like, OK, I can do this.”

The Post Bulletin’s Jeff Kiger contributed to this report.

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Chinese billionaire Richard Liu settles Minneapolis rape allegation

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Chinese Billionaire Richard Liu Settles Minneapolis Rape Allegation
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Chinese billionaire and JD.com founder Richard Liu agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former University of Minnesota student who alleged he raped her in her Minneapolis apartment after a night of dinner and drinks with wealthy Chinese executives in 2018, attorneys for both sides announced late Saturday.

A settlement amount was not disclosed.

Richard Liu, who stepped down as the CEO of Beijing-based e-commerce company JD.com this year amid increased government scrutiny of China’s technology industry, has denied raping the woman, Jingyao Liu, and prosecutors never filed criminal charges. A joint statement from attorneys for both sides called the encounter “a misunderstanding.”

“The incident between Ms. Jingyao Liu and Mr. Richard Liu in Minnesota in 2018 resulted in a misunderstanding that has consumed substantial public attention and brought profound suffering to the parties and their families,” the joint statement said. “Today, the parties agreed to set aside their differences, and settle their legal dispute in order to avoid further pain and suffering caused by the lawsuit.”

The settlement was announced just two days before the civil trial was set to begin Monday in a Minneapolis courtroom. On Friday, a jury of seven men and five women were picked to hear the case.

Richard Liu is a celebrity in China, part of a generation of entrepreneurs who created the country’s internet, e-commerce, mobile phone and other technology industries since the late 1990s. Forbes estimated his wealth at $10.9 billion on Saturday.

Jingyao Liu alleges the attack happened in 2018 while Richard Liu was in Minneapolis for a weeklong residency in the University of Minnesota’s doctor of business administration China program, geared toward high-level executives in China.

Jingyao Liu, a Chinese citizen, was at the university on a student visa and was a volunteer in the program at the time. The Associated Press does not generally name people alleging sexual assault, but Jingyao Liu has agreed to be identified publicly.

Jingyao Liu was 21 and Richard Liu was in his mid-40s at the time, the lawsuit said. They are not related.
Richard Liu, also known as Liu Qiangdong, was arrested on suspicion of felony rape in August 2018, but prosecutors said the case had “profound evidentiary problems” and declined to file criminal charges.

Jingyao Liu sued Richard Liu and JD.com in 2019, alleging sexual assault and battery, along with false imprisonment.

The case drew widespread attention at a time when the #MeToo movement was gaining traction in China. Richard Liu’s supporters and opponents waged aggressive public relations campaigns on Chinese social media; censors shut down some accounts that supported Jingyao Liu for “violating regulations.”

Jingyao Liu said in her lawsuit that she had to withdraw from classes in fall 2018 and seek counseling and treatment. Her attorney said she has since graduated but has post-traumatic stress disorder. She sought compensatory as well as punitive damages from Richard Liu.

Her lawsuit said she was seeking more than $50,000, a standard figure that must be listed in Minnesota if a plaintiff intends to seek any larger amount. She was expected to ask a jury to award much more.

On the night of the alleged attack, according to the lawsuit, Richard Liu and other executives went to a Japanese restaurant in Minneapolis and one of the men invited Jingyao Liu at Richard Liu’s request.

She felt coerced to drink as the powerful men toasted her, and Richard Liu said she would dishonor him if she did not join in, her lawsuit claimed.

According to text messages reviewed by The Associated Press and Jingyao Liu’s interviews with police, she said that after the dinner Richard Liu pulled her into a limousine and groped her despite her protests. She said he raped her at her apartment. At one point, she texted a friend: “I begged him don’t. But he didn’t listen.”

Her friend notified police, who went to her apartment. Jingyao Liu told one officer, “I was raped but not that kind of rape,” according to police. When asked to explain, she changed the subject and said Richard Liu was famous and she was afraid. She told the officer that the sex was “spontaneous” and she did not want police to get involved.

Police said they released Richard Liu because “it was unclear if a crime had actually taken place.” In a later interview with an investigator, Richard Liu said the sex was consensual and the woman “enjoyed the whole process very much.”

Jingyao Liu told a police sergeant that she wanted to talk with Richard Liu’s attorney and threatened to go to the media if she did not, according to police. Richard Liu’s former attorney recorded the phone call, in which Jingyao Liu said she didn’t want the case to be in the newspaper and “I just need payment money and apologize and that’s all.”

A recording of the phone call was expected to be played as evidence at trial. Surveillance videos from the restaurant, the restaurant’s exterior and the halls of the woman’s apartment complex were also expected to be played for jurors.

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