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Debt Collectors Harassing Patients in the Emergency Room? Klassy.

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This is simply outrageous and yet another symptom of a broken healthcare system that places profits over people:

One of the nation’s largest medical debt collection companies — already the subject of a lawsuit over alleged privacy violations — finds itself in more hot water as newly released documents claim that agency employees are actually working in hospital emergency rooms and sometimes demanding that patients pay up before they receive any further medical attention.

The New York Times reports on hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the debt collector’s practices obtained from the Minnesota Attorney General.

According to the Times, the debt collector promises savings and increased collections to hospitals if they turn over control of certain administrative functions. This includes putting employees of the collections company in the emergency room:

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From the New York Times article:

Accretive says that it trains its staff to focus on getting payment through “revenue cycle operations.” Accretive fostered a pressurized collection environment that included mandatory daily meetings at the hospitals in Minnesota, according to employees and the newly released documents. Employees with high collection tallies were rewarded with gift cards. Those who fell behind were threatened with termination.

“We’ve started firing people that aren’t getting with the program,” a member of Accretive’s staff wrote in an e-mail to his bosses in September 2010.

Collection activities extended from obstetrics to the emergency room. In July 2010, an Accretive manager told staff members at Fairview that they should “get cracking on labor and delivery,” since there is a “good chunk to be collected there,” according to company e-mails.

Employees were told to stall patients entering the emergency room until they had agreed to pay a previous balance, according to the documents. Employees in the emergency room, for example, were told to ask incoming patients first for a credit card payment. If that failed, employees were told to say, “If you have your checkbook in your car I will be happy to wait for you,” internal documents show.

Employees at Accretive’s client hospitals ask patients to make “point of service” payments before they receive treatment. Until she went to Fairview for her son Maxx’s ear tube surgery in November, Marcia Newton, a stay-at-home mother in Corcoran, Minn., said she had never been asked to pay for care before receiving it. “They were really aggressive about getting that money upfront,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Newton was shocked to learn that the employees were debt collectors. “You really feel hoodwinked,” she said.

While hospital collections at Fairview increased, patient care suffered, the employees said. “Patients are harassed mercilessly,” a hospital employee told Ms. Swanson.

Our healthcare system is broken. The PPACA/RomneyCare/ObamaCare is a step in the right direction towards fixing the healthcare mess. It helps people — people like me — and the Republicans want to dismantle it and replace it with dog-knows-what. Probably a lifetime supply of ‘Tussin.


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