Which is lucky, I guess, for me, but not so lucky for people who wound up in an ER where Accretive Health representatives were reported to be trying to collect debts from people waiting for emergency health care From the Chicago Tribune on April 27:
as cash-strapped state governments and insurers have scaled back how much money they pay hospitals, and as the number of nonpaying patients continues to rise, hospitals are coming under increased pressure to bring in dollars.
As a result, more institutions are turning to outside firms to take over all or part of their billing operations, a function many hospitals believe can be performed better and more efficiently by companies that specialize in the practice.
Those arrangements came into sharp focus this week, after the Minnesota attorney general accused Chicago-based Accretive Health Inc., of shaking down patients in the emergency room and on hospital recovery beds.
In some cases, according to a scathing report issued by Attorney General Lori Swanson, ER staff members supervised by Accretive Health employees at a Minnesota hospital made patients wait while "financial consultations" were conducted.
Such discussions included requests that patients make upfront payments or pay an outstanding balance before receiving care, according to the report.
The company, Accretive Health, was reported to have called the program it's "Secret Sauce" program, and while the news momentarily hurt the company's stock price, good news! It's heading upward, rising 20% even as the news broke. (That's good news unless you're a debtor who's desperately ill.)
Thank GOD we don't have something like nationalized health care that would prevent this practice. Why, if these people didn't want intrusive, rude debt collectors demanding money from them even as they're dying, they should've lived in Canada.
(Where is that sarcasm emoticon I've been demanding?)
If the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it could be held liable for damages and attorney's fees, of course -- but those hopefully-eventually-taken-care-of debtors have to find their way to a lawyer's office, first.