Hospital Debt Collector Draws Scrutiny
Pete Stark (D-Calif.) is calling for a full-scale investigation into the reportedly questionable debt collection practices of a company accused of harassing patients in emergency rooms into paying their bills.
Stark requested that if the practices of Accretive Health -- a company hired by hospitals to collect payments for medical care -- are found to violate the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), the federal government should issue a bulletin to hospitals informing them about the illegality of the behavior and of possible enforcement actions.
Stark said that if aggressive debt collectors are demanding payment from patients before they receive care in an emergency room, it may be a violation of EMTALA, the law that requires hospitals to provide care regardless of a patient's ability to pay.
Stark asked Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, to investigate Accretive to determine whether the company is violating EMTALA.
"This is corporate greed at its worst, abuse of patients' rights to dignity and privacy, and, I believe, a possible violation of several laws," said Stark in a press release.
Stark's call comes after a New York Times story revealed debt collection tactics detailed in a report the paper obtained from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
Those tactics included embedding debt collectors who appeared to be hospital staff in Minnesota emergency rooms.
The debt collectors were employed by Accretive Health and may have broken the law by not identifying themselves as debt collectors, Swanson told the New York Times.
According to the New York Times, doctors at a hospital in Minnesota complained in 2011 about Accretive Health's tactics.
Accretive Health has contracts with Minnesota's two largest hospitals as well as other large hospitals and health systems across the U.S.
Accretive Health flatly denied the allegations, saying in a statement that they involve "inaccuracies, innuendo, and unfounded speculation."