Embattled medical debt collector says Daschle, Frist will advise on new standards

"This process will create first-of-kind national standards for understanding expected charges, available resources, counseling, billing and payment procedures regardless of the ability to pay," said a news release from Accretive describing the new panel.

"An independent accreditation process will accompany the new standards, providing patients with assurance that they will be treated compassionately and fairly."

Several U.S. lawmakers — including Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — have voiced concerns over Accretive's alleged practices.

Franken has been among the most insistent, demanding answers from the Chicago-based company and scheduling a field hearing on the issue in his home state later this month.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, meanwhile, has come to Accretive's defense as the scandal has unfolded.

Former HHS Secretary Leavitt, who also served as governor of Utah for three terms and will lead the new panel on standards, said that medical providers face a "dilemma" as they try to balance their financial well-being with patient care.

"In order to assure hospitals remain financially viable and available to patients, they must assist these same patients in making financial arrangements for payment," he said in a statement.

"Hospitals desire to do that in a sensitive and appropriate way; however, currently there are no clear standards to help guide their efforts.

"This collaboration is an effort to provide clear standards to help medical practitioners continuously improve."