Minnesota Hospital Breaks With Debt Collector

Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services said it has ended a contract with a consulting firm that the Minnesota attorney general accused of misusing private patient information and aggressively collecting debt from patients in emergency rooms.

Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office released a six-volume report Tuesday as part of a pending lawsuit against Accretive that was filed in January.

Fairview ended the 5-year contract signed in 2010 with Chicago-based Accretive Health last month, the Star Tribune reported. Fairview said in a statement that it has been working closely with Swanson in her investigation of Accretive and shares her concerns about its practices.

Fairview spokesman Ryan Davenport said Accretive ran payment services, including debt collection, at its hospitals and clinics.

“This was a decision we made in the best interests of our patients and our organization,” Fairview’s statement said. Davenport said Fairview will continue to look into Swanson’s findings and isn’t planning any legal action at this time.

Accretive still maintains a smaller role with Fairview by finding ways to cut costs.

The attorney general’s report said Accretive professionals created a high-pressure atmosphere in which employees were coached to get payment from patients before treatment was given. It also said some doctors complained that some patients skipped treatment because of the practices. An Accretive manager, Andrew Crook, dismissed those complaints as “country club conversation.”

Rhonda Barnat, a spokeswoman for Accretive, said that the firm has “a great track record of helping hospitals enhance their quality of care.” She declined any further comment on the company’s contract with Fairview.

Accretive still has an active contract with North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Swanson said that the North Memorial has not cooperated in providing records in the continued investigation of Accretive.

But North Memorial Health Care CEO Larry Taylor said in a statement that it has worked with Swanson’s office and will “continue to provide additional information in a manner that is as timely as possible.”