CMS investigates hospital for harsh collections, EMTALA violation

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is investigating whether the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview violated federal law with its harsh billing and collection practices in the emergency room, reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The investigation stems from a complaint filed last month by state Attorney General Lori Swanson that condemned Fairview and Chicago-based Accretive Health for aggressive collections practices.

"Upon hearing reports of the debt collection activities at Fairview, CMS sent in state surveyors to determine if there were violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act," Patti Unruh, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services spokesperson, wrote in an email Friday, according to the article.

In addition to alleging EMTALA and Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations, the Attorney General report cites an instance when a father was approached for payment before his child was treated.

But according to Accretive Health, a family member specifically asked to discuss financial arrangements and cost prior to treatment. "We accommodated his request, and the father expressed his appreciation for our assistance," the company said in a statement last month.

Since the Attorney General's report, Fairview Health Services dropped Accretive Health's contract and pulled back on collecting patient debts during ER visits for new medical issues.

Meanwhile, Accretive Health has denied the report's accusations, calling them "inaccuracies, innuendo and unfounded speculation." It also has asked the federal district court in Minnesota to dismiss the Attorney General's complaint.

CMS will not reach a conclusion until it receives an official report from the Minnesota Department of Health's on-site survey of University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, according to the Pioneer Press.

To learn more:
- here's the Pioneer Press article
- read the Accretive Health statement and motion to dismiss