KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Members Of Congress Urge Investigation Of Accretive Health

Accretive Health, which is one of the nation's largest medical debt collectors and which has been the subject of an inquiry by Minnesota's attorney general, is also drawing attention from lawmakers in Washington.  

The New York Times: In Congress, A Move To Look Into A Medical Debt Collector
A California representative is calling for an investigation into Accretive Health, one of the nation's largest collectors of medical debt, for potentially violating a federal law that requires hospitals to provide emergency care regardless of citizenship, legal status or the ability to pay (Silver-Greenberg, 4/26).

Modern Healthcare: Stark Urges Federal Probe Of Accretive
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) called for federal health officials to launch an investigation of Accretive Health, the healthcare billing and collection company that faced an inquiry by Minnesota's attorney general for aggressive practices. In letters to acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson, Stark also asked for a report on enforcement measures should an investigation uncover illegal activity. In the event that Accretive's practices are found to violate law, he urged federal officials to warn hospitals that accept Medicare patients of possible enforcement for such behavior (Evans, 4/26).

The Hill: Dem: Alleged Medical Debt Shakedowns 'Corporate Greed At Its Worst'
A prominent House Democrat called for federal health regulators to investigate collectors of medical debt who allegedly imbed themselves in hospital staffs to more easily put pressure on patients.  Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) called the alleged practices, described in a recent news report, "abominable" and "abusive" (Viebeck, 4/26).

Minnesota Public Radio: Franken Vows To Investigate Accretive Health
A debt collection company accused of gathering too much sensitive patient information from Minnesota hospitals will be investigated by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (Neely, 4/26).

In related news -

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Care Union: Debt Collector's Work Affects Contract Negotiations
About 1,500 Service Employees International Union members work at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale and Fairview Health Services in the Twin Cities. Both hospital systems had hired Chicago-based Accretive Health ... Tee McClenty, executive vice president for the SEIU's health care unit ... said workers are concerned about how their information is being used. (Dunbar, 4/26).

Detroit Free Press: Collection Agency Used By Three Metro Health Systems Under Investigation
A Chicago debt collection company with contracts at three large metro Detroit hospital systems is the focus of mounting investigations. Accretive Health was sued Thursday by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. The lawsuit charges that the company violated state and federal health-privacy laws and state debt-collection and consumer protection laws. Minnesota is in discussion with state and federal regulators about coordinating investigations, according to Swanson's office. Documents released by the state allege that unlicensed bill collectors from the company represented themselves as bill collectors and financial counselors (Anstett, 4/27).

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