Accretive Health Denies Allegations in Letter to Franken

In response to a series of questions posed by U.S. Senator Al Franken, Accretive Health released a 29-page report that denies allegations that it violated privacy laws and used overly aggressive tactics to obtain payments from patients of Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services.

Chicago-based debt-collection agency Accretive Health, LLC, has again denied allegations that it violated privacy laws and used overly aggressive tactics for obtaining funds from patients of Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services.

In a 29-page report released Friday in response to a series of questions posed by Minnesota's U.S. Senator Al Franken, Accretive Health insisted that it followed industry standards for talking with patients about money they owed for health services.

Franken sent the list of questions to Accretive CEO Mary Tolan after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson released a six-volume report accusing Accretive of using aggressive-and sometimes illegal-methods for collecting money from Fairview patients.

Swanson's report claimed that Accretive imposed quotas on hospital staff to collect money from patients-sometimes before treatment was provided. The company's “aggressive collections approach may constitute a threat to withhold medical treatment” that violated Minnesota law, Swanson alleged.

In its report released Friday, Accretive acknowledged that its employees sometimes conducted “bedside financial counseling” for patients. It said, however, that these discussions were “optional” and aimed at obtaining payments from patients' insurance companies and helping patients better understand their out-of-pocket obligations.

The company also provided an excerpt from a script distributed to Accretive and Fairview employees, which stated that patients were “never to be denied service for non-payment” and “are never to be given the impression that service would be denied for non-payment.”

In emergency situations, discussions about payments always occurred after the patient was screened and stabilized, Accretive's report said.

“It is clear that the attorney general's report is highly misleading and was not informed by even a single meeting with any current Accretive Health employee,” the company said.

According to a Pioneer Press report, Franken-in response to Accretive's report-announced that the Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing on the issue later this month.

Swanson in January filed a lawsuit against Accretive, after a company laptop-which was not encrypted and contained confidential data for roughly 23,000 Fairview and North Memorial Health Care patients-was stolen. Late last month, and about a week after Swanson issued her six-volume report, Accretive filed for dismissal of the lawsuit.

Last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel requested that Swanson refrain from interviewing Accretive clients until she meets with the company's CEO and asked that the two parties attempt to resolve the matter privately, but Swanson vowed to press on with the investigation into Accretive's practices.