One of the country's biggest medical debt collectors has reached a new low: sending employees into hospital emergency rooms to "encourage" patients to pay past medical debts before receiving treatment. The Minnesota attorney general is investigating Accretive Health's practices; its debt collectors are allegedly instructed to all but pose as hospital employees, use scripts to demand payment, and in some cases even discourage patients from getting care. Debt collectors have also approached patients after surgery or in the labor and delivery department.
There are concerns that such practices may not be isolated to Minnesota's hospitals, the New York Times reports, as hospitals become increasingly desperate to collect on outstanding debts. (Accretive has contracts with large hospital systems in Michigan and Utah, among others.) "The mission of these companies is in direct opposition to the supposed mission of these hospitals," says one consumer advocate, and many are concerned that patient care will be affected. Making the situation even worse, the Minnesota attorney general also alleges that debt collectors, in some cases, had access to private patient health information. Click for the full report. (Read more Accretive Health stories.)