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Accretive Health Responds to Medical Debt Collection Criticism, Seeks Lawsuit Dismissal

May 2, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Accretive Health, the nation's largest collector of medical debt, is fighting back against charges that it employs heavy-handed tactics to coerce hospital patients into paying their bills.  Yesterday, Accretive filed a motion with a federal court in Minneapolis, seeking dismissal of a a lawsuit filed by the Minnesota Attorney General that alleges the company violated privacy laws.

Accretive charges that the allegations made in the complaint are “factually baseless and legally indefensible.”  The company also accuses Minnesota Attorney General, Lori Swanson, of orchestrating "a nationwide media campaign against Accretive Health, giving numerous television and print interviews to trumpet her release of a so-called ‘compliance review.’”

Swanson filed the lawsuit in January to challenge Accretive's work for Minnesota-based Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Health Care.  The suit was filed after a laptop containing information on more than 23,000 patients was stolen from the company.  Swanson alleges the company violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as Hipaa, by giving collectors access to patient health records.

Earlier this week, Swanson issued a report detailing Accretive's tactics for collecting debt on behalf of some of its client hospitals.  Among other things, the report claims Accretive improperly posted its debt collectors in hospital emergency rooms and at patient bedsides. According to the report, the Accretive representatives “may discourage them (patients) from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler room."  The report also said the Accretive debt collectors had access to patient medical records, and were not always distinguishable from actual hospital employees.

A statement issued by Accretive yesterday said the claims made in Swanson's report "grossly distort and mis-characterize” Accretive’s revenue cycle services, and called the bedside collection claims a “flagrant distortion of fact.”



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