Minnesota's attorney general chalks up a big win for emergency room patients, particularly those needing medical treatment and cannot afford it. The NYT reports:
Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay.
The company has not admitted wrongdoing.
As part of Monday’s settlement, Accretive Health is also barred from contracting with hospitals within the state for at least two years, effectively ending its business at three Minnesota hospitals. For four years after that, the company will have to obtain permission from the attorney general before resuming business in the state.
In April, Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, disclosed hundreds of Accretive’s internal documents that outlined aggressive collection tactics, including embedding debt collectors in emergency rooms and pressuring patients to pay before receiving treatment.
Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, said during an interview on Monday “a hospital emergency room should be a sanctuary for the sick and wounded, not a hunting ground for collectors.”
Many kudos to Ms. Swanson, as this was no easy task, and her statement on emergency rooms should be applauded. But, there are problems with this settlement, huge problems that will come along with Accretive Health in every other state that still allows it to contract with hospitals.
Starting with the only line in the second paragraph of the article, "The company has not admitted wrongdoing." Such companies really need to admit their wrongdoing, to the court, and publicly. It's the least they can do for the patients who suffered undue stress thanks to their 'Money Above All Else' business practices.
Not being forced to admit wrongdoing allowed Accretive's CEO to issue the following statement after the court's ruling:
“Even though we believe the claims against us were either baseless or exaggerated, we have used this opportunity to carefully examine our own practices in order to ensure we are setting the very highest standards for our own performance and achieving the best possible outcomes for hospitals, patients and communities.”
This is a big 'middle finger' to the courts, and to low-income, uninsured and financially struggling people everywhere. Accretive, and debt collectors like it will continue to place the value of satisfying stockholders above human life until they are forced to admit wrongdoing, and change these cruel practices. And let's not forget the emergency rooms, they need to leave the billing to the billing department, keep the vultures out and focus on patient care.