Health Leaders magazine named Lori Swanson, Minnesota’s Attorney General, one of its HL20-leaders who are making health care better- in its December, 2012 issue. Swanson, who was also awarded 2010 Public Official of the Year by the Minnesota Nurses Association, was named for her battle with debt collections company Accretive and its alleged violations working for client Fairview Hospitals in Minnesota.
Swanson targeted Accretive after one of its employees had a laptop stolen from a car with more than 23,000 patient records inside and unsecured or encrypted. That, Swanson charged, was a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. Further investigation showed the collection firm was allegedly using the data to mine collection information from patients based on their conditions and sending agents into untapped revenue areas such as labor and delivery rooms. There agents would ask for payment from patients often at the bedside. Former Fairview nurse and current NNU President Jean Ross testified this type of event happened twice over a three-year span to her daughter while delivering a child.
“While I, the nurse and doctor were out of the room, a woman had come in and asked if my daughter was willing to pay all or any part of her bill now,” Ross testified, “My daughter told her no, she could not. As background, my daughter and her husband are among many families hit hard with medical bills and changes to insurance coverage. She certainly did not need reminders of her financial position while under the stress of worrying about the condition of her youngest child.” Ross also testified about her daughter’s story at a hearing in Saint Paul organized by US Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN).
This past July, Accretive agreed to a settlement. While admitting no guilt or wrongdoing, the Chicago-based collector will pay the state of Minnesota $2.5 million, some of which to go to patients, and agree to not do business in the state of Minnesota for two years or re-enter the state as a licensed debt collector for six years without the consent of the Attorney General.
Swanson said in the article that patients across Minnesota sympathize with the plight of those hurt by debt collectors and the size of the settlement warns debt collectors how to act in Minnesota.
Update from the Pioneer Press: Minnesota’s attorney general is now going after overly-aggressive debt collectors. She has filed a bill aimed at “debt buyers,” that says these companies must file proof that they’ve sued the right person for the right amount before taking them to court.
Both chairs of the House and Senate judiciary committees back the bill.
Link here: Health Leaders magazine