MN AG Levels New Allegations in Accretive Lawsuit

An amended lawsuit includes additional allegations that Accretive Health violated consumer protection and privacy laws, and it includes a long list of sworn statements from hospital patients.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson on Tuesday broadened the scope of her lawsuit against Chicago-based debt-collection agency Accretive Health, Inc.

Swanson sued Accretive in January, accusing the company of violating privacy laws after corporate laptops containing confidential data for Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Health Care patients were stolen.

In an amended complaint filed Tuesday in Minnesota’s U.S. District Court, Swanson's office added allegations that the company used unlawful tactics to collect money from Fairview patients, sometimes in hospital emergency rooms or at patient bedsides.

Swanson first outlined similar allegations in a multi-volume report released in April. In that report—and now in Swanson’s amended lawsuit—Accretive is accused of imposing quotas on hospital staff to collect money from patients, encouraging competitions and prizes for obtaining funds, and using various high-pressure tactics for collecting funds.

“By not providing options for later payment to patients, by training staff to repeatedly insist on on-the-spot payment by patients, and by creating a boiler-room environment that encouraged and promoted other abusive, aggressive, and harassing collection tactics for in-hospital collections, Accretive implied, suggested, and created the impression to many patients” that they wouldn’t receive health care services if they didn’t make immediate payments, the lawsuit states.

The suit alleges that Accretive operated for a period without the proper license. It also states that Accretive and North Memorial didn’t have the proper agreement in place to grant Accretive access to patient information, but Accretive has denied those allegations.

Court documents filed in support of Swanson’s amended complaint include a long list of sworn statements from hospital patients.

For example, in what is described as the “baby prison” incident, a woman who had given birth at Southdale Hospital was stopped on her way out and told she must pay $800 before being allowed to take her newborn home. She provided her credit card, despite the fact that she had actually already met her deductible, and her insurance would cover the remaining cost, according to the suit.

Another case: Frank Przybilla, a part-time Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy, visited the emergency room at a Fairview hospital in January when his leg went numb. Przybilla was allegedly told—before seeing a doctor—that he needed to pay $350 immediately, and he believed that treatment would otherwise be withheld.

“It felt like the woman didn’t care if I was dying as long as she got the approximately $350 I owed for my treatment,” Przybilla said, according to the court documents.

Accretive has repeatedly denied Swanson’s allegations and in May asked that her lawsuit be thrown out.

On Wednesday, the company wrote in an e-mailed statement that Swanson’s amended complaint “contains no new causes of action and no additional requested relief.” Accretive claims that Swanson “has merely added selected allegations” from her April report, which contains “numerous mischaracterizations and distortions of documents and facts.”

Accretive said that it plans to file a motion requesting that the amended complaint be dismissed.

Swanson’s amended lawsuit can be downloaded here. Supporting documents, including the patients’ stories, can be downloaded here.