KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospital Billing Collections Company Seeks Dismissal Of Minn. Lawsuit

The Minn. state attorney general lodged a suit against Accretive Health arguing that it violated privacy laws when an employee lost a laptop computer with medical data of 23,500 patients. In addition, Accretive is also lashing out at publicity about its efforts to get hospital patients to pay their bills.

(St. Paul) Pioneer Press: Accretive Health Fires Back Against Allegations
Accretive Health is firing back against Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, saying her lawsuit against the bill collection company should be dismissed and alleging she has orchestrated a nationwide media campaign rather than litigate her concerns in court.  Until last week, the Chicago-based company was a consultant to the Minneapolis-based Fairview health system, but the relationship has fallen apart amid public scrutiny with a sweeping report released by Swanson that alleged overly aggressive collection tactics. Meanwhile, Fairview said Monday, April 30, that it recently stopped trying to collect on patients' old debts during emergency room visits for new medical problems -- a practice that Swanson criticized (Snowbeck, 4/30).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Accretive Seeks Dismissal Of Suit Over Lost Laptop, Health Records
The consulting firm that lost a laptop computer with medical data on 23,500 Minnesotans last summer has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson alleging that the company violated health privacy laws and state consumer protections. Accretive Health Inc., the same company that came under fire last week with Fairview Health Systems for aggressive patient debt collection practices, said Swanson's lawsuit over the lost laptop should be thrown out because no consumers have been harmed and the suit's consumer fraud claims are baseless. In documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Accretive also said it has temporarily halted debt collections in Minnesota under an order from the state Department of Commerce (Kennedy, 4/30).

Minnesota Public Radio: Accretive Asks Judge To Dismiss Attorney General's Lawsuit
The company that has helped Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Medical Center collect debts from patients has asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. The lawsuit filed in federal court in January accuses Chicago-based Accretive Health of breaking federal and state health privacy and debt collection laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). ... In the court documents, Accretive Health said it didn't violate privacy laws because there's no evidence the information on the laptop was compromised (Dunbar, 4/30). 

Modern Healthcare: Accretive Wants Minn. Lawsuit Dismissed
Accretive, a publicly traded company in Chicago, saw its stock drop last week after Swanson's office released a six-volume report on the company's collection efforts under its contract with Fairview. The report said Accretive pushed to collect payments from patients as they sought treatment in the hospital, including the emergency room. The Illinois attorney general has announced an inquiry and one congressman has called for a federal investigation (Evans, 4/30).

MedPage Today: Hospital Debt Collector Draws Scrutiny
Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is calling for a full-scale investigation into the reportedly questionable debt collection practices of a company accused of harassing patients in emergency rooms into paying their bills. Stark requested that if the practices of Accretive Health -- a company hired by hospitals to collect payments for medical care -- are found to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the federal government should issue a bulletin to hospitals informing them about the illegality of the behavior and of possible enforcement action (Walker, 4/30). 

The Hill: Medical Debt Collector, Under Fire From Lawmakers, Denies Pressuring Patients
One of the country's largest collectors of medical debt, under heavy criticism from lawmakers, hit back at allegations that it uses aggressive and potentially illegal tactics to get patients to settle up. In a statement, Accretive Health called reports that it puts "bedside pressure on patients" a "flagrant distortion of fact." … The response came after several lawmakers blasted Accretive for allegedly breaking federal law to collect debts on hospitals' behalf (Viebeck, 4/30).

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