Accretive Health, one of the largest collectors of delinquent medical debts has become a target of criticism and regulator attention recently. It is alleged that debt collectors, appearing to be hospital employees, have been confronting sick and injured patients, and demanding payment before treatment.
The practice of embedding debt collectors in some hospitals came to lift in hundreds of company documents now in the hands of the Illinois Attorney General.
It is alleged the debt collectors discouraged people with past due bills from seeking treatment, demanded payment for outstanding bills and used boiler room like scripts at bedside.
Collectors also had access to confidential patient health information and Attorney General Lori Swanson says Accretive employees may have broken the law by not identifying themselves as debt collectors.
Employees were told to stall patients entering the emergency room until they had agreed to pay a previous balance, according to the documents. Employees in the emergency room, for example, were told to ask incoming patients first for a credit card payment. If that failed, employees were told to say, “If you have your checkbook in your car I will be happy to wait for you,” internal documents show.
In March 2011, doctors at Fairview Health Services, a Minnesota hospital, complained that such strong-arm tactics were discouraging patients from seeking lifesaving treatments, but Accretive officials dismissed the complaints as “country club talk,” the documents show.
According to the New York Times, Accretive issued the following statement, “We have a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care.”
Hospitals have long hired outside collection agencies to pursue patients after they have left hospital facilities. But financial pressures are altering the collection landscape so that they are now letting collection firms in the front door, according to Don May, the policy adviser for the American Hospital Association, a trade group.
To achieve promised savings, hospitals turn over the management of their front-line staffing — like patient registration and scheduling — and their back-office collection activities.
Concerns are mounting that the cozy working relationships will undercut patient care and threaten privacy, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy coalition. “The mission of these companies is in direct opposition to the supposed mission of these hospitals.” – Source
According to the New York Times Late, Accretive just announced it won a contract to provide “revenue cycle operations” for Catholic Health East, which has hospitals in 11 states.