Debt collector with IHC connections accused of targeting patients in ER for money

Published: Wednesday, April 25 2012 3:10 p.m. MDT

Medical personnel prepare to load a patient into an AirMed helicopter outside Ashley Regional Medical Center in Vernal on Friday, July 9, 2010.

Andre Salvail, Vernal Express

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A medical debt collection company with connections to Intermountain Healthcare is under fire from the Minnesota attorney general, accused of placing its employees in hospital waiting rooms.

The Minnesota attorney general reported aggressive tactics by Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debts, according to the New York Times. Some of the tactics reportedly include embedding debt collectors as employees in emergency rooms and demanding payment before treatment.

The debt collectors reportedly have been placed in emergency and surgery waiting rooms.

The debt collection agency provides services to some of the largest health care systems in the country, including Intermountain Healthcare.

“We’re certainly monitoring the situation,” Daron Cowley, spokesman for Intermountain Healthcare, said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “We constantly monitor all of our contractual relationships to ensure that any activity is in accordance to our mission values.”

The New York Times reported that Accretive’s debt collectors might look identical to hospital employees, demand payment of bills and discourage emergency care.

Cowley said that Intermountain’s experience with the debt collection firm isn’t consistent with the New York Times report.

“I think it’s wrong to try to tie what Accretive is doing with what Intermountain does,” Cowley said. “It’s different.”

Accretive has helped Intermountain’s patients qualify for federal and state programs like Medicaid, Cowley said. The health care company has also looked into using some of Accretive’s software.

Minnesota’s attorney general also raised concerns that these practices are becoming commonplace nationwide.

“I have every reason to believe that what they are doing in Minnesota is simply company practice,” Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, told the New York Times. She declined to give the Times any details.

The company has responded to the allegations but did not go into detail on whether other states were investigating Accretive’s practices.

“We have a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care,” Accretive told the Times.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson

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