Medical Debt Collector Banned In Minnesota For Harassing Patients In Emergency Rooms

One of the nation’s largest medical debt collectors just got a bit smaller after it agreed to stop operating in Minnesota over allegations that the company staffed hospital emergency rooms with its agents in order to get people to pay up on any owed debts before they received additional care.

We first told you about Accretive Health’s hospital hijinks back in April, when Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson — who was already suing the company for alleged privacy violations — released a boatload of documents about the debt collector’s questionable practices.

As part of yesterday’s settlement agreement, Accretive must give up all remaining business in Minnesota by Nov. 1. It is then banned for doing any business in the state for two years and would require permission from the Attorney General’s office to return to doing business in Minnesota before Nov. 2018.

Accretive will also pay $2.5 million to a fund intended to compensate patients.

The scandal began at the beginning of 2012 when AG Swanson filed suit against Accretive after a laptop was stolen containing around 23,500 patient files, which also contained very specific information about the patients’ conditions and treatments that no one outside the hospital should have access to without patients’ consent.

Swanson then released the documents in April that revealed the pressure put on both patients and hospital staffers about collecting patient debt.

“Patients are harassed mercilessly,” one hospital staffer said in that report.

Accretive employees would be placed within hospital emergency rooms and attired in a fashion indistinguishable from actual hospital staffers.

Added a second employee, “We were told if we don’t get money from patients, in the emergency room, we will be fired.”

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Some patients said they were asked to pay while in the emergency room, lying on a gurney or hooked up to morphine. One woman said she was asked for payment while she was being treated for a miscarriage.

Yesterday, when announcing the settlement, Swanson explains that emergency rooms “should be a solemn place, not a place for a financial shakedown of patients.”

For its part, Accretive maintains it did nothing wrong, pointing out that — like just about every corporate settlement — there were “no findings of fault.” Rather, it decided to agree to the ban and to pay out $2.5 million “to prevent this matter from being a continued distraction.”

Accretive is banned from Minnesota [StarTribune.com]

Comments

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  1. Auron says:

    Accretive is disgusting. Also in this saga, there was a woman who was told that she would be unable to leave the hospital with her newborn until she paid her bill, which was already covered by insurance. Not only that, Rahm Emmanuel stepped in on Accretive’s behalf to get our AG to stop her investigation into Accretive. I’m glad we have such a strong pro-consumer AG.

    • The Beer Baron says:

      It seems to me that it would be most unwise to get between a new mother and her baby. The aphorism about a mother bear and her cubs comes to mind. Human mothers can be far more dangerous…

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      This is why I always make sure no matter where I am I can get in contact with my attorney.

    • Captain Spock says:

      I am not registered to Vote in Chicago, But Rahm is just continuing the same Democrat/Daley Machine for his own gain rather than the good of the people. What could his possible reason be to stop this investigation?

      • cspschofield says:

        You mean, other than the morals of a Port Said slave dealer?

      • StarKillerX says:

        You answered your question immediately before asking it.

      • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

        I worked on the south side and the loop for several years. I was alarmed by the number of people who hated living in the city because of things like that.

  2. wraithgirl says:

    This has to be a crazy violation of HEPA.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Maybe it’s wierd, but I appreciate that Consumerist uses the same photo when they post a follow-up on an article. I, like some, are much more visually inclined, and when I saw this image I instantly remembered the article from before, and then had that confirmed with their “We first told you about…” qualifier.

  4. TDJ says:

    For its part, Accretive maintains it did nothing wrong, pointing out that — like just about every corporate settlement — there were “no findings of fault.” Rather, it decided to agree to the ban and to pay out $2.5 million “to prevent this matter from being a continued distraction.”

    Right. Because everyone knows that when you’ve done nothing wrong, you always agree to pay your accusers $2.5 million and agree with Johnny Law that you will not set foot in Minnesota for 6 years. That’s a normal compromise for a business who is found to be “not at fault”.

    • Captain Spock says:

      I am more sad for the job’s lost through no fault of the employee.

    • evilpete says:

      They do that to avoid individual civil suits that would be a slam dunk had they admitted fault.

      I feel this is unfair to the victims who would benefit only from such civil suits.

  5. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Good. This practice is just plain evil.

  6. duncanblackthorne says:

    A friend of mine, at least in part, is correct: Health-care-for-profit needs to be abolished. It is an abomination.

    So far as these bastards are concerned? I wouldn’t be unhappy to see them punched in the face. Repeatedly.

  7. thomwithanh says:

    +1

    “Because everyone knows that when you’ve done nothing wrong, you always agree to pay your accusers $2.5 million and agree with Johnny Law that you will not set foot in Minnesota for 6 years. That’s a normal compromise for a business who is found to be “not at fault”.”

    @TDJ I think you said it better than anyone else can

  8. scoosdad says:

    Where is the outrage (and punishment) for the hospitals who hired these guys in the first place?

    This isn’t like some ambulance chasing lawyer cornering a potential new client in the emergency ward (think Danny DeVito in The Rainmaker). This company was hired by the hospital and then let in to operate as if they were hospital employees, and given access to private medical files.

    To me, that’s more egregious than what this company does.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      I agree 100% with your statement.

    • Auron says:

      Yes it is. And this whole investigation started because an Accretive employee had a laptop stolen. The stolen laptop had medical, financial, and personal details on patients that none of the non-hospital employees should have had access to.

    • balderdashed says:

      You’re right — Fairview Hospital is where the buck should stop. They claim these questionable and in some cases illegal activities weren’t consistent with the hospital’s core values — nonsense. Your values are what you do, not what you claim you do, or what you wish you had done now that you’ve been caught. At least the scandal cost Fairview CEO Mark Eustis his job, but more heads should have rolled. Fairview’s board consistently supported Eustis, calling him a person of “incredibly high integrity’ — who of course wouldn’t be influenced by the fact that his son was on Accretive’s payroll. Rubbish. When things smell this bad, a true housecleaning should be mandatory.

  9. jacobs cows says:

    Ghoulish.

  10. Harry Greek says:

    ,… this is ‘Murica!!