Back in April, I posted about Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson investigating allegations that Accretive Health Care aggressively collected debts from hospital patients. These allegations included claims that Accreive was obtaining payments from people in emergency rooms and from their hospital bedsides. Yesterday, Accretive settled these claims, agreeing to pay $2.49 million and to withdraw from the state of Minnesota for a period of six years (although it can come back after two years with the attorney general's permission). New York Times coverage is here.
Over coffee this morning with a friend, I threw out the same question from my original post. How does an organization get itself to the place where it collectively comes to think such strong-arm collection tactics on hospital patients are a good idea, let alone morally defensible? A profile of Accretive's CEO, Mary Tolan, in Crain's Chicago Business contains this gem:
"My objective is just to be a happy, confident capitalist," says the devotee of Ayn Rand's and Milton Friedman's free-market gospel, which she applies with a combative, survival-of-the fittest management style.
At least I have my answer.As it had previously, Accretive has denied any wrongdoing. In its press release, Accretive says that the Minnesota Attorney General "could not identify a single patient in Minnesota who experienced a problematic interaction with an Accretive Health employee." In her press release, however, the Attorney General stated:
The Attorney General’s Office obtained sworn affidavits from about 60 patients to support the lawsuit and heard from many others. Many of these patients say they were asked to pay money in the hospital emergency room before being treated, often while laying on a gurney, undressed, in pain, or hooked up to tubes or morphine. Most of the patients had insurance coverage.
I guess it all depends on what your definition of "problematic" is.