KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Hospital Collection Co. Says Minn. Attorney General ‘Grossly’ Distorted Its Work

Accretive says it is seeking to address concerns. The Minnesota probe suggested the company may have thwarted state and federal rules to get payments from patients even as they were seeking hospital care.

Modern Healthcare: Accretive Hits Back At AG Report
Materials from a state attorney general "grossly distort and mischaracterize Accretive Health's revenue cycle services," the Chicago-based billing company said in a lengthy statement Sunday, days after Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) called for a federal probe into the company's collection practices. A report last week from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson showed Accretive may have violated both state and federal laws that protect consumers and patient privacy by urging patients to pay bills as they sought care, even in the emergency room. According to the report, patients' private medical records were also used in efforts to collect payment (Zigmond, 4/29).

Bloomberg: Accretive Says It's Working To Address Minnesota Concern
Accretive Health Inc. (AH), a hospital billings-collection company, said it's working with advisers to address concerns raised by the Minnesota attorney general’s office that it puts bedside pressure on patients to pay bills. ... The suggestion Accretive puts bedside pressure on patients to pay their bills out of pocket are a "flagrant distortion of fact," the company said. Accretive shares tumbled by the most ever on April 25, just after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson issued a report alleging Accretive violated U.S. and state patient-privacy and debt-collection laws (Hart and Wayne, 4/30).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Billing Company Denies It Pressured Fairview Hospital Patients
The Illinois firm accused of pressuring Fairview hospital patients to pay even as they waited in emergency rooms pushed back against critics Sunday, accusing Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson of grossly distorting its collection practices. "The inaccuracies, innuendo and unfounded speculation that have been part of the Minnesota attorney general's recent allegations are extensive," the company said in a statement. "We are working with our advisors to address the allegations." In a six-volume report earlier this month, Swanson described in detail how patients were harassed and manipulated after Accretive Health introduced sweeping changes at Fairview's seven Twin Cities hospitals and implemented new strategies for collecting revenue (Marquez Estrada, 4/29).

Chicago Tribune: Accretive Gets Clean Bill Of Health From Other Customers
Health systems that work with Chicago-based Accretive Health backed the company Friday, saying they hadn't seen evidence of the allegations raised in Minnesota that the debt collector violated patients' rights. Their endorsements came as the Minnesota-based hospital system embroiled in the payment controversy severed its remaining contracts with the Chicago-based company (Frost, 4/28).

Meanwhile, in other news about hospital billing practices -

Kaiser Health News: Sued Over An $1,800 Hospital Bill
Nonprofit hospitals, including Mount Carmel, pay no federal, state or local taxes, giving them a competitive edge over their for-profit counterparts. In return, they are expected to offer a community benefit, including free and discounted care for low-income patients. But even as more and more Americans need extra help after losing their jobs and health insurance in the recession, studies suggest that on average, nonprofits provide only slightly more free and reduced-cost care than for-profit hospitals. Patient advocates argue the line dividing nonprofit hospitals and for-profit hospitals, which do not receive the tax exemption, has blurred (Gold, 4/27).

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