You don’t pay up, on time – we’ll remove your stitches with a rake!
Hospital patients waiting in the emergency room or convalescing after surgery could find themselves confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.
One of the nation’s largest medical debt-collection companies is under fire in Minnesota for having placed its employees in emergency rooms and other departments at two hospitals and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general. The documents say the company also used patient health records to wrangle for more money on overdue bills.
The company, Accretive Health, has contracts not only with the two hospitals cited in Minnesota but also with some of the largest hospital systems in the country, including Henry Ford Health System in Michigan and Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. Since January, it has faced a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lori Swanson of Minnesota alleging that it violated state and federal debt-collection laws and patient privacy protections…
An Accretive Health spokeswoman declined to comment on whether other states were looking into its practices. “We have a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care,” she said…
Indistinguishable from medical staff members, Accretive employees register patients, take down sensitive health information and champion aggressive bill collection goals with incentives like gift cards for staff members, the company records show.
“It is absolutely stunning that the company has systematically trampled on patient rights, perverting the charitable mission of a hospital,” Ms. Swanson said in an interview…
While hospital collections increased, patient care plummeted, the employees said. “Patients are harassed mercilessly,” a hospital employee told Ms. Swanson. Another hospital employee complained, “We were told if we don’t get money from patients, in the emergency room, we will be fired…”
By giving its collectors access to health records, Accretive violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, colloquially known as HIPAA, Ms. Swanson said.
Anyone surprised that hospital systems that often mimic criminal extortion would rely on tactics akin to loan sharks?