Consumer Law

Minn. AG: In-Hospital Collection Efforts Could Violate Federal Emergency Treatment Law

Aggressive efforts by admission personnel at a chain of Minnesota medical centers to collect money from patients before they are treated could violate federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency treatment even if patients aren’t insured, the state attorney general said in a report released today.

In addition to claimed contravention of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, attorney general Lori Swanson also said a troubling shift into the unconventional collection practices at Fairview Health Services may have violated other consumer protection laws, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports.

Some patients were being dunned before they had left the ER, delivery rooms and cancer wards, the article says.

Fairview dropped an Illinois-based consultant, Accretive Health Inc., as its revenue manager, after the AG raised issues about its practices. Accretive provided training that hospital personnel were trained to follow in seeking payment from patients and their relatives, according to the article.

“The Accretive culture has converted the hospital culture from that of a charitable organization to that of a collection agency,” said the AG’s report. “Perhaps the most damaging act by Accretive was to undermine the basic premise that a hospital is a sanctuary to treat the sick and infirm.”

Accretive didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the newspaper. However, it provided a written statement to the Pioneer Press saying that the company has “a great track record in helping hospitals enhance their quality of care” and has assisted over 250,000 patients in obtaining insurance coverage.

The New York Times (reg. req.) says Swamson’s probe, which resulted in a lawsuit earlier this year, could also impact management contracts Accretive has with hospitals in other states.

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