Fairview Health Services, Minneapolis, reached a voluntarily agreement with Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch to significantly restrict certain aggressive collections practices such as wage garnishment and to make price discounts available to more uninsured middle-income patients. Hatch in January released a lengthy report attacking the collection practices of seven-hospital Fairview as illegal in some cases and possibly in violation of the system's tax-exempt status. The report cited instances in which collection agencies for Fairview garnisheed low-income patients' wages, harassed patients who did not owe money and hounded patients who had agreed to payment plans. Under the agreement, Fairview will audit its collection practices and develop new policies. In addition, the state and Fairview will hire a third-party reviewer, who must give prior approval to all wage or bank-account garnishments.
Officials at Hatch's office could not be reached for comment at deadline. Fairview said it was happy with the agreement. "We have worked, as all healthcare organizations do, to develop procedures that separate out those who cannot pay for their medical care from those who could pay but do not," Fairview spokeswoman Jennifer Amundson said. "The provisions in this agreement improve our efforts to reach that goal." -- by Mark Taylor