The back and forth accusations between Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and health care accounts receivable management firm Accretive Health Inc. continued Thursday with Swanson's office releasing more patient affidavits detailing claims of being chased for payments while waiting for care at several Minnesota hospitals - including the network of seven operated by Fairview Health Services.
Accretive Health officials have asked for the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Swanson's office. In a court document filed last week, Accretive Health argues that Swanson has failed to make a case that its employees were trying to collect debts from patients who were waiting for care.
The company has accused Swanson of leading a nationwide media campaign. The latest sworn statements were filed in U.S. District Court in response to that.
Swanson has accused Accretive of unsavory tactics concerning collecting hospital bills, methods that may have violated consumer protection and collection laws. Last month, she filed an amended complaint adding several patient testimonials that allege the company demanded payment while they were receiving emergency care. The new affidavits including more such accounts, according to the AG's office.
Accretive Health argues, in part, that its employees were not involved with any of the first 27 patients represented in Swanson's lawsuit. Accretive Health said that Swanson has failed to identify a single patient who had an inappropriate interaction with one of its employees or who was denied care for any reason.
The conduct described in the new affidavits "is directly contrary to Accretive Health's policies, practices and training,'' an Accretive spokesperson said.
Swanson argues that Fairview Health's employees who approached patients were acting under Accretive Health's management and supervision. The consulting company was hired by Fairview in 2010 to boost revenues and cut costs. Swanson said in her latest court brief that Accretive Health embedded its management into hospital staff and managed hospital workers who handled collections and patient registration.
Accretive lost its contracts at Fairview Health after Swanson began investigating the possible patient-privacy violations and aggressive collection practices.
Among the accounts in the new affidavits is the story of a family who visited a Fairview Health emergency room twice last year with their toddler son. The boy, who underwent a heart transplant as an infant, needs emergency treatment for painful allergic reactions.
On both trips, the parents say, they were approached by a bill collector. They explained that they preferred to be billed for any charges because the boy's medical expenses are paid from a special fund. But in both cases, the family made partial payments because they believed the boy would otherwise not receive care. Withholding such treatment in an emergency would be a violation of federal laws.