Medical debt collector, under fire from lawmakers, denies pressuring patients

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the ranking member of a Ways and Means subcommittee on health, called on federal health regulators to investigate the firm after reports suggested that Accretive embeds employees in hospital staffs to more easily collect debts. 

"This is corporate greed at its worst, abuse of patients' rights to dignity and privacy, and, I believe, a possible violation of several laws," Stark said in a statement Thursday.

A New York Times report quoted documents from the Minnesota attorney general's office attesting that Accretive employees in hospitals sometimes discourage patients from seeking care at all.

Stark called the alleged practices "abominable" and "abusive."

"To the extent these activities violate federal law," he wrote to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Marilyn Tavenner, "I request that you report back to me on federal enforcement measures that CMS can and will undertake."

Accretive denied that the Minnesota attorney general's findings, released Tuesday, were valid.

"The attorney general's press materials grossly distort and mischaracterize Accretive Health's revenue cycle services," it stated.

The firm's shares fell sharply Wednesday.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced Friday that he would investigate the allegations and explore "whether federal laws should be updated by prevent these kinds of activities."

"If proved to be true, these activities may have violated federal health, consumer protection and privacy laws," Franken wrote to Accretive CEO Mary Tolan.