Hospital Employees Criticize Accretive Health's Debt Collection Methods: Report

'We Are Giving The Image That We Are Money-Hungry,' Hospital Workers Say

Employees at Minnesota hospitals that contracted with Accretive Health repeatedly complained about the company's methods of getting money from patients during a period when the state's attorney general says people were being hounded over bills.

"We are giving the image that we are money-hungry," said one employee in an internal document obtained by the Star Tribune.

Fairview Health Services workers complained about high-pressure tactics they were instructed to use with patients and worried that Accretive Health's focus on dollars and cents detracted from the hospitals' mission to care for the sick, according to internal documents gathered by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) and reported by the Star Tribune today. Fairview Health Services cut all ties with Accretive Health last month, according to the newspaper.

One of the internal documents, a survey of employees, revealed 40 percent felt uncomfortable with the focus on money, the Star Tribune reports.

Accretive Health has come under scrutiny from Swanson, federal agencies, and Democratic lawmakers since Minnesota's attorney general published a six-volume report on her website accusing the company of demanding that emergency room patients pay upfront before getting medical care, pestering patients for money at their bedsides, and misleading them into believing treatment would be withheld if they didn't pay up.

Accretive Health denied the charges, which would violate state and federal laws, in a 29-page report released Friday. The company asserts that no patients were denied medical care nor told they would be. Accretive Health also is seeking to combat criticisms by calling on politically connected allies. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) asked Swanson to ease off her campaign against Windy City-based Accretive Health. The company has also hired ex-Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, who served under President George W. Bush, and other former federal officials to develop a set of voluntary standards for hospital billing and debt collection.

Fairview workers were pressured to increase the dollar amounts they collected from patients and had their performance publicly displayed, according to Swanson's reports. People who accumulated the most money were awarded gift cards and other prizes, which was against Fairview's internal rules, the reports say.

All these efforts, and the trouble they've caused since Swanson made her findings public, didn't even help the hospital cut down on unpaid bills, according to the Star Tribune: The accumulation of "bad debt" from unpaid bills rose 45 percent to $58.1 million.

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