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Over the past hour, this (see below) story was posted as a lead at the NY Times’ website. It provides truly incredible details regarding the draconian depths to which healthcare and corporatism have stooped in our country, IMHO. What else can one say about healthcare debt collection firms that place employees in hospital emergency rooms; violate patient privacy rights; and, even question them at their bedside while they're in the recovery room?

(And you thought things could not possibly get more outrageous?)

This piece is by Jessica Silver-Greenberg who just won a Pulitzer Prize for her Wall Street Journal coverage, last year, of illegal debt collection practices.

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(I looked online, for just a few moments, to see if her move over to the NYT was announced and didn’t find anything. Regardless of wherever she’s working, this lady rocks!)

Debt Collector Is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals
By JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG
New York Times
April 24, 2012

Hospital patients waiting in the emergency room or convalescing after surgery could find themselves confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.

One of the nation’s largest medical debt-collection companies is under fire in Minnesota for having placed its employees in emergency rooms and other departments at two hospitals and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general. The documents say the company also used patient health records to wrangle for more money on overdue bills.

The company, Accretive Health, has contracts with dozens of hospitals around the country. Since January, it has faced a civil lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lori Swanson of Minnesota alleging that it violated state and federal debt-collection laws and patient privacy protections…

(This story is a must-read, IMHO!)

Minnesota AG Swanson states the following, later on in the piece: “It is absolutely stunning that the company has systematically trampled on patient rights, perverting the charitable mission of a hospital.”

Among the many outrageous business practices of Accretive, we learn…

…In its pitches to hospitals, Accretive boasts that it trains its staff to focus on getting payment. Employees in the emergency room were told to ask incoming patients first for a credit-card payment. If that fails, employees are told to say, “If you have your checkbook in your car I will be happy to wait for you,” internal documents show…
Knowing how all of these types of procedures are getting streamlined these days (certainly, in states such as Minnesota—see link further on in this paragraph), it wouldn’t surprise me if, sooner rather than later, many will rush to an emergency room for treatment of a life-threatening event and end up in jail, instead. Of course, that result assumes they'd make it there alive!

I guess this is one way to contain healthcare costs, huh? Disgusting!

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(Political cartoonists are going to have a field day with this story!)

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