Patt Morrison for April 25, 2012

Don’t look now, there are debt collectors at your hospital bedside

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A vacancy sign looking for debt collectors outside a recruitment job shop in Bristol, England, 2009.

If you think debt collectors phoning you at dinner time is an invasion of privacy, listen to what hospital patients in Minnesota have had to put up with: representatives of Accretive Health, a debt collection service, engaged in tactics that included targeting patients in emergency rooms and at their bedsides, insinuating that patients have to pay before they receive service, not revealing their identity as debt collectors, and even, according to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, the possible violation of privacy laws. As hospitals lose funds due to uncollected debts – and last year community hospitals provided $39.3 million in uncompensated care – more hospitals are turning to outside debt collectors for help. Some of these, like Accretive, are publicly traded and arguably more invested in their bottom line than patients’ rights.

WEIGH IN

Where should the lines be drawn? Should debt collectors be allowed in the hospital?

Guests:

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition advocating for quality, affordable health care for all Californians

Jessica Silver-Greenberg, reporter, The New York Times


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