Monday, August 6, 2012

Bill Collector Accused Of Embedding Collection Agents In Hospital Emergency Rooms To Conduct Patient Financial Shakedowns Settles Minnesota AG Suit

In St. Paul, Minnesota, The New York Times reports:

  • Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay. The company has not admitted wrongdoing.

    As part of Monday’s settlement, Accretive Health is also barred from contracting with hospitals within the state for at least two years, effectively ending its business at three Minnesota hospitals. For four years after that, the company will have to obtain permission from the attorney general before resuming business in the state.

    In April, Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, disclosed hundreds of Accretive’s internal documents that outlined aggressive collection tactics, including embedding debt collectors in emergency rooms and pressuring patients to pay before receiving treatment.
  • The revelations in Minnesota have reverberated across the country because they raise concerns that such aggressive tactics have become widespread at hospitals. Accretive Health contracts with some of the largest hospital systems in the country to help them recoup money on unpaid bills that have piled up during the financial crisis and the economic downturn.
  • Hospitals have long hired outside collection agencies to pursue patients after they have received care. But mounting financial pressures have resulted in hospitals letting collection firms in the front door, turning over the management of their staffing, like patient registration and scheduling, along with their collection activities, according to Ms. Swanson.
See also, Minnesota AG press release: Attorney General Swanson Says Accretive Will Cease Operations In The State Of Minnesota Under Settlement Of Federal Lawsuit (Cannot Reenter Minnesota For Six Years Without Attorney General’s Agreement):
  • A hospital emergency room is a place of medical trauma and emotional suffering for patients and their families. It should be a solemn place, not a place for a financial shakedown of patients. It is good to close the door on this disturbing chapter in Minnesota health care,” said Attorney General Swanson.
Go here for the parties' Settlement Agreement.

No comments: