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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is urging residents harmed by hospital debt collections to contact his office.

Ellison issued a statement Thursday in response to a New York Times story regarding Allina Health and its policy of cancelling appointments for patients with significant unpaid debts.

Minnesotans have had extra protection from hospital debt collection practices that are abusive, harassing or deceptive through an agreement reached in 2005. Ellison renewed that agreement in 2021.

"Denying patients needed care on the basis of medical debt harms every Minnesotan, whether or not they are Allina patients," Ellison said in a statement. "I encourage anyone ... affected by the practices raised in the article to contact my office so we can determine the scope of the problem and whether any laws or agreements have been broken."

The original agreement emerged over accusations of aggressive debt collection by Fairview Health, and then extended to include Allina, North Memorial and Park Nicollet. The Twin Cities health systems also agreed through the deal to offer uninsured patients the same discounted rates given to insured patients. The current version of the agreement covers all 128 nonprofit hospitals in Minnesota.