Hospitals increasingly ask patients to pay a medical bill when they arrive or before they leave. Here's a look at how one Minnesota hospital went too far to collect bills and violated Medicare rules and a law that safeguards access to emergency medical care, regardless of ability to pay.
The University of Minnesota Medical Center, one of seven hospitals owned by Fairview Health Services, is facing a full audit of its compliance with Medicare rules and a follow-up inspection of how well it adheres to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which says hospitals must hold off any talk of payment until a patient has been examined and stabilized.
Collection efforts at Fairview hospitals came under public scrutiny this year after an inquiry by Minnesota's attorney general into Accretive Health, the healthcare billing and collection company Fairview hired. Accretive, based in Chicago, reached a settlement with the attorney general in July that barred the company from Minnesota for at least two years. Accretive denied any wrongdoing.
Nonetheless, an investigation into the University of Minnesota Medical Center found that hospital bill collectors harassed patients and violated EMTALA.