By David Pittman, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
A Chicago-based debt collection company has concurred to pay $2.5 million in fines and stop doing business in Minnesota for 2 years following an investigation into alleged strong-arm collection tactics used on hospital patients.
Minnesota’s attorney general and its commerce commissioner stated Accretive Health — a company hired by hospitals to collect payments for medical care — used illegal, unethical, and aggressive tactics to collect debts from sick and vulnerable patients in the state.
Those tactics included embedding debt collectors who appeared to be hospital staff in Minnesota emergency rooms. The collectors allegedly demanded patients pay before receiving treatment, according to the New York Times, which obtained a report on Accretive from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
According to Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, the settlement bars Accretive from conducting business in Minnesota for 2 years and requires that the company provide restitution to consumers adversely affected by its alleged misconduct, amid other penalties.
In a statement, Accretive stated there were no cases where patients claimed they were denied care. The settlement contains no admission of liability or wrongdoing, it added.
“Entering into this settlement agreement grants our company to put this matter behind us and prevents further distraction from the important work that we do for our hospital clients,” Accretive said.
Rothman called Accretive’s actions “illegal and unconscionable.”
“Today’s settlement attempts to rectify the damages inflicted on Minnesota consumers who were deceived, lured into a false sense of security, and then taken advantage of,” Rothman stated in a statement.
Requesting payment from patients before receiving emergency room care may be a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) stated in April when calling for a Health and Human Services investigation into the company’s alleged practices. The law requires hospitals to provide care regardless of a patient’s capability to pay.
According to the New York Times, physicians at a hospital in Minnesota complained in 2011 about Accretive Health’s tactics. Accretive has contracts with Minnesota’s two largest hospitals as well as other massive hospitals and health systems across the U.S.
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Submited at Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 at 12:15 am on Uncategorized by robert
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