Answers. Results. Justice.

$17 million Jury Verdict - Surgical/hospital negligence

$3.650 million Jury Verdict - Surgical/hospital negligence

$3.650 million Jury Verdict -Surgical/hospital negligence

$6.275 million Settlement - Sexual Assaults by Hospital Employee

$2.5 million Jury Verdict - Surgical/hospital negligence

$1.2 million Settlement - Surgical error; medication error

$1.9 million Settlement - Birth Trauma

Bill Collectors Bullied Hospital ER Patients, Report Finds

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2012 | In The Courts/Legislation

Deb Waldin showed up at a Minneapolis-area emergency room one night last  summer with the worst pain she’d ever felt — a kidney stone. While she waited  to see a doctor, a man rolled a computer into her emergency-room bay and asked  her to pay $750 or $800.

“I’m like, are you kidding me? Here I am dying and I’m just going to reach  over to my purse and give you my credit card?” She kicked him out, but is still  furious about it.

Waldin, 60, is just one of the patients to come forward with stories of  aggressive billing tactics in the wake of a scathing report by Minnesota  Attorney General Lori Swanson about hospital abuses.

In a six-volume report, Swanson described how patients were harassed and  manipulated after a Chicago consulting firm, Accretive Health, introduced  sweeping changes to the culture of seven hospitals owned by Fairview in the  Minneapolis-St. Paul area and new strategies for collecting debts.

Hospital officials admit making mistakes that have sullied Fairview’s  reputation and infuriated both patients and employees. Recently they announced  that they had severed all ties with Accretive.

“They are awful stories,” Mark Eustis, Fairview’s president and CEO, said.  “We don’t like to hear those stories, and we’re sorry that people have been  treated that way.”

Swanson accused the consulting firm of using heavy-handed, even illegal,  tactics to pressure patients for payments before, during and after their  hospital stays.

Waldin, said she was still writhing in pain when an unnamed staffer pulled up  to her bedside last July 11.

She had no previous debts at the hospital, she said; but the man told her  this visit would cost her $750 to $800 and asked for her credit card.

Waldin had no complaints about the medical care that followed. “That was  fabulous,” she said. But afterward, she called to complain about the finance  man. “I don’t even recall getting an apology.”

In her report, Swanson argued that Accretive “takes pride in using collectors  in the emergency room.” No area of the hospital seemed off limits: even parents  with babies in the newborn intensive care units were stopped for “financial  counseling,” she found.

The actions, Swanson argued, practically amounted to “a threat to withhold  medical treatment.”

Mary Tolan, Accretive Health’s chief executive, said in a brief interview  with the Chicago Tribune that Swanson’s report contained “a tremendous amount of  innuendo and falsehoods and doesn’t represent what we do at all.

“When the truth is that you’re really advocating for patients and someone  says you’re something that’s the exact opposite of that” the market fills with  uncertainty resulting in undue damage to the company’s reputation, Tolan said.  “These are not true assertions.”

Dr. David Hunter, a radiologist at the University of Minnesota, said he had  heard complaints about the billing practices from colleagues at the university’s  hospital, which is owned by Fairview. But Hunter didn’t really believe them  until a couple of weeks ago, when a close friend arrived at the hospital for an  MRI. The woman, a breast-cancer survivor, was ushered into a small room with a  billing officer, who told her she had some unpaid bills to pay.

“She said, ‘What bills? I have paid all my bills,'” Hunter said.

The man told her she hadn’t received the bills yet, but still had to pay  them. When she refused, the man pleaded that it would look bad on his record,  Hunter said.

As a physician, Hunter said he was appalled. “It’s targeting people when  they’re most vulnerable, which is to me ethically unconscionable,” he said.

Swanson’s report also detailed the way Accretive consultants, working in  hospitals across the country, exchanged tips in private emails about how to  ratchet up pressure on patients.

When a Medicaid patient in Detroit complained about harassment and called a  lawyer, the Accretive employee wrote: “Now we have to waste our time to deal  with this low-life patient and some dumb-ass attorney.”

If a patient balked at making a payment, hospital employees were given  scripts by Accretive to wear down their resistance: “We really DO need to  collect your co-pay/co-insurance/deductible today.” The implication, Swanson  argued, is that patient care would suffer if they didn’t pay up.

Dan Fromm, Fairview’s chief financial officer, acknowledged that some  hospital employees rebelled at the heavy-handed tactics.

He added that Fairview is trying to repair the damage with both patients and  employees. “We do not and we will not let practices like that interfere with  patients receiving timely and appropriate care,” Fromm said. “We underscore that  repeatedly with our staff — that care comes first.”


FindLaw Network