Minnesota AG Continues Public Battle Against Accretive Health

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When Accretive Health accused Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson of fighting her lawsuit against the company in public, her office responded by releasing more documents to the public accusing the company of alleged healthcare debt collection abuses.

The attorney general is suing Accretive for failing to protect confidential patient data after an Accretive employee had a laptop stolen the previous July that contained unencrypted patient records from Fairview and North Memorial hospitals. The complaint also charges the company with violations of state debt collection laws. Accretive denies the allegations.

The Minnesota Star Tribune reported yesterday that the attorney general’s office released another set of affidavits from former patients who complain of alleged improper and illegal collection activities at Fairview Health hospitals. Accretive Health managed Fairview’s revenue cycle, including its fee and debt collection duties.

The release of documents by the attorney general comes on the heels of Accretive filing an amended motion seeking to dismiss the case. The memo was in response to an amended complaint filed by the attorney general.

In its amended motion, Accretive accuses the attorney general’s office of launching “a press tour” against the company which has caused “great harm” and has “led directly to the loss of over ninety Minnesota jobs and have harmed countless Minnesota patients who deserve quality healthcare at an affordable price.”

The Minnesota attorney general answered the amended motion by releasing 10 additional affidavits from patients who claim they had been the victim of high-pressure collection practices, including attempts to collect bills in the emergency room.

While Accretive has yet to respond to the new allegations, it reported in its amended motion that none of the 27 patients in earlier affidavits submitted by the attorney general had ever been contacted by an Accretive employee regarding collections. Although not stated, the employees presumably were working for Fairview Health, which to date has had no legal action filed against it by the attorney general.

The attorney general’s public releases of information about Accretive Health’s alleged collection practices have brought attention on the case by Congress. In April the attorney general’s office released a 6-volume “compliance review” report that outlined alleged collections abuses, and this prompted Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to investigate. Last month he filed two bills seeking to bolster protection of patient data and curbing certain collection practices relating to healthcare debt.

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Posted in Medical Receivables, Patient Access, Patient Financial Services, Revenue Integrity .

Continuing the Discussion

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  • avatar jfahrlender says:

    Yet another politician trying to further their career……………..

  • avatar John Nemo says:

    I haven’t gone as far into the weeds with this story as to have read every single legal brief from all sides, but Accretive’s whole “They weren’t our specific employees” seems to imply that it was Fairview employees acting on their own who did all these unbelievably insensitive things to patients and families regarding debt collection.

    If that’s the case, why hasn’t a single patient or the Minnesota AG gone after Fairview itself?

    Also, wasn’t Accretive brought in specifically to help Fairview with patient debt collection? If so, then you’d have to assume they had some sort of say, knowledge or supervision over what was going on in those patient rooms. After all, I believe Accretive employees were in the actual Fairview facilities when this stuff was happening.

    From a PR standpoint, Accretive continues to shoot its toes off one by one. You can’t compete with even ONE patient horror story, but the Minnesota AG literally has dozens of signed complaints by real people.

    I think we all have a hard time believing that Accretive, given its role in the process and what it was supposed to be doing (heading up Fairview’s debt collection efforts!) had absolutely no say in, knowledge of or participation in the bad things happening.

    Either way, this remains lose-lose for Accretive PR-wise.

    Also, don’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel!

    Lori Swanson is as media-savvy and talented of a State AG as you’re going to find when it comes to working the press. She is likable, great on camera and comes across as extremely trustworthy. She’s crafted a reputation as someone who is always fighting for “the little guy” and taking on big, bad corporate giants that are trying to put profits ahead of people.

    So attacking her publicly isn’t going to get you any traction here in Minnesota. In fact it’s just going to backfire on you. And the same thing will happen to a lesser extent nationally in the stories you see popping up on NBC’s “Rock Center” and other places.

    If I were Accretive, I’d go dark on this PR-wise and focus instead on the other markets around the country where you still have good standing with clients. I’d be doing tons of “internal” PR and messaging with current clients to assure them that this was the type of isolated, PR witch hunt Accretive makes it out to be, and that Accretive will still be delivering the same top service in your market, etc.

    Because the more you pick a public fight with someone as sympathetic, talented and (seemingly) trustworthy as Lori Swanson, and the more she pulls out tear-jerking, anger-inducing stories of real people being treated terribly by your employes while they’re suffering inside a hospital ER, the more you lose!

  • avatar jfahrlender says:

    There are three sides to every story. Your, mine and the truth. My beef in general is with Attorney Generals, they like the NCAA seem to only pick the sexy issues. I don’t know what these people did, they very well could have done something improper. More likely the volume of incidents I would question. Affidavits? Why are there so many of these people that owe money? I hate that we assume everybody that owes a hospital bill is dying of cancer……I’d just like to see the whole story out there but HIPPA will prevent that. So like every other news piece you see or hear it’s what somebody WANTED you to see or hear not necessarily what really happened.

  • avatar John Nemo says:

    Sure, state AG’s are politicians and know how to work the PR spotlight. But let’s not lose sight of what allegedly occurred and how awful it would be if you were in the shoes of these patients and parents and were treated that way. I don’t think any legitimate collection agency owner would condone that type of behavior.

    Not saying people shouldn’t pay legitimate debts, but there’s a time and a place for that, and it’s not when your baby is screaming/sick in the ER or you’re having chest pains.

    Regardless it’s a fascinating PR study to be sure. Watching both sides – especially Accretive – has been interesting to say the least!

  • avatar jfahrlender says:

    Where is the time and place? Money isn’t plucked off of trees. Hospitals close down constantly, people need to understand you can’t make it personal. that’s why they have bankruptcy laws in place. It’s ugly but so is life. Life isn’t free

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