Friday, August 3rd, 2012 at
The New York Times reports that Accretive Health has settled with the Minnesota Attorney General’s office for $2.5 million over allegations that it violated federal law. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson went after Accretive Health with a vengeance amidst allegations that the debt collector intercepted patients in the emergency room in an attempt to collect past healthcare-related debts. The Times quoted Swanson as saying, “A hospital emergency room should be a sanctuary for the sick and wounded, not a hunting ground for collectors.” The settlement also prevents Accretive Health from contracting with Minnesota hospitals for a period of two years, and requires the company to obtain permission from the AG’s office before operating in Minnesota for the following four years.
The allegations against Accretive Health prompted U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to hold hearings on patient access and privacy, and the U.S. Treasury Department to propose regulations that would, among other things, protect patients from abusive debt collection practices in a healthcare setting.
Friday, June 29th, 2012 at
Although it didn’t name names, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued proposed regulations that would, among other things, protect patients from abusive debt collection practices in a healthcare setting. Although the proposed regulations are mandated by the Affordable Care Act (what some call “Obamacare”), it brings to mind the recent spotlight on Accretive Health, which allegedly delayed patient access to healthcare services in an attempt to collect on past debts. According to the Treasury Department’s press release, these regulations would serve as one condition for hospitals seeking tax-exempt status. The regulations would require charitable hospitals to:
* Provide patients with a plain language summary of the financial assistance policy before discharge and with the first three bills;
* Give patients at least 120 days following the first bill to submit an application for financial assistance before commencing certain collection actions;
* Give the patient an additional 120 days (for 240 days total) to submit a complete application;
* If a patient is determined eligible for financial assistance during these 240 days, refund any excess payments made before applying for aid and seek to reverse any collections actions already commenced.
The public has a 90-day window to comment upon the proposed rules.
Friday, June 22nd, 2012 at
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson broadened the charges against Accretive Health, filing an amended complaint against the debt collector. Accretive Health’s alleged practices of waylaying emergency room patients in an attempt to collect debts gathered steam, and hospital and Accretive officials found themselves in an unwelcome spotlight when they testified before a hearing called by Senator Al Franken.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Swanson’s office filed an amended complaint against Accretive Health because additional consumer complaints surfaced regarding the company’s aggressive debt collection practices. The Tribune reports that the amended complaints includes 27 testimonials, and goes on to say, “Some allege that they were asked to pay money in the emergency room while they were suffering from chest pain, strokes and kidney stone attacks. Others said they were asked for money while they were confused, dazed and disoriented.”
According to the Attorney General’s amended complaint (which can be downloaded from http://www.ag.state.mn.us/), the AG is alleging that Accretive Health violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as well as the Minnesota Health Records Act and Minnesota debt collection statutes and consumer protection laws. The complaint alleges that Accretive Health “has orchestrated and implemented practices to collect money from Minnesota patients in hospital emergency rooms, at patient bedsides, and at hospital registration desks in ways and using tactics that violate Minnesota law.”
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 at
Senator Al Franken’s hearing, entitled, “Ensuring Patients’ Access to Care and Privacy: Are Federal Laws Protecting Patients?” put Accretive Health in the hot seat. The company’s alleged debt collection practices in hospital emergency rooms came under fire, with a patient recounting his experience of being taken aside at a hospital and questioned about a bill that was supposedly overdue. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports Accretive Health’s Vice President Greg Kazarian’s apology to patients, as well as an Accretive employee’s email in which patients were referred to as “deadbeats” and “schmuck.”
As reported by Business Week, another line of questioning during the hearing pertained to the security of medical information. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson initially opened up an investigation into Accretive Health when a laptop with sensitive patient information was stolen from an Accretive employee. According to Business Week, Franken indicated that he would follow up with legislation or regulations requiring that laptops with medical information be encrypted.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at
There has been tremendous fallout from accusations that Accretive Health positioned debt collectors in hospitals, perhaps dissuading patients from seeking emergency care until they paid past due bills. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is holding a hearing on Wednesday, May 30, entitled, “Ensuring Patients’ Access to Care and Privacy: Are Federal Laws Protection Patients?”
The hearing, which will be held at 10:00 a.m. in Room 15 of the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul, is free and open to the public. It will consist of four panels, and presenters include the Minnesota Attorney General, a representative of Accretive Health, two consumers, and patient advocates. Additional details can be found at http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=hot_topic&id=2089.
Friday, May 18th, 2012 at
Accretive Health has created news over the past couple of weeks, most notably because of its alleged debt collection practices in hospital emergency rooms. A New York Times expose cited documents indicating that “Employees were told to stall patients entering the emergency room until they had agreed to pay a previous balance.” Accretive Health, which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol AH, saw its stock price plummet. In the wake of the New York Times article, a number of legislators called for an investigation into whether federal law was breached by refusing treatment to emergency room patients.
Accretive Health must believe that the best defense is a good offense, calling for – and funding – “a process for implementing national standards for how hospitals and other providers interact with patients regarding their financial obligations.” According to Accretive’s press release, the new standards will include an independent accreditation process.
The company is seemingly in full damage control mode, as they’ve signed on a veritable who’s who of political luminaries to head up the initiative. It will be spearheaded by Michael Levitt, former Utah governor and former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Advisors include Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senator from South Dakota, Bill Frist, former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, and Donna Shalala, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Monday, April 30th, 2012 at
A few days ago, we discussed the report in the New York Times that revealed the shenanigans of Accretive Health (NYSE: AH), a collection agency that collects on medical debts. A debt collection industry publication, InsideARM, published a story reminding that us that the Chairman, J. Michael Cline, was involved in some other fishy business a few years ago. Accretive Health’s predecessor, Accretive LLC, invested in the National Arbitration Forum in 2006. Cline apparently believed that there was big money to be made in arbitrating debt collection matters. The National Arbitration Forum got into hot water when a class action suit alleged that, although it presented itself as independent and neutral, debt collection agencies and debt collection law firms were putting their proverbial thumbs on the scale. As a result, the National Arbitration Foundation got out of debt collection-related activities, and places like Mann Bracken and Axiant shuttered their doors.
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 at
The New York Times reports that Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is investigating Accretive Health (NYSE: AH), a debt collection agency that collects medical debts. The Times article describes shocking debt collection practices, such as posing as hospital employees and demanding past due payments from patients waiting to been seen in emergency rooms. The article cited documents indicating that “Employees were told to stall patients entering the emergency room until they had agreed to pay a previous balance.”
The Attorney General noted that corralling patients seeking emergency care is a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, and that providing debt collectors with health information is a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. While Attorney General Swanson is focused on activities taking place in Minnesota, Accretive Health is active in hospitals around the country. She is working with other state and federal regulators to coordinate a response to the company’s practices.
The Attorney General’s six-volume compliance review of the hospital’s management contracts with Accretive Health can be downloaded here: http://www.ag.state.mn.us/