At Senate Field Hearing, Sen. Franken Questions Accretive, Fairview on Debt Collection Practices
Senator Will Use Testimony to Ensure Laws Adequately Protect Patient Care, Health Privacy
Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) chaired a U.S. Senate hearing at the Minnesota State Capitol, where he questioned representatives from Accretive Health Inc. and Fairview Health Services on the debt collection and health privacy practices employed by both companies, and heard from Minnesotans who said they were subjected to Accretive’s aggressive debt collection practices while they were patients at Fairview. Sen. Franken says he will use the testimony from today's hearing to determine if legislation is needed to ensure that our laws adequately protect the health privacy and quality of care of patients.
"When Minnesotans go to the emergency room, they should be able to get treatment without first being hassled for payment," said Sen. Franken. "Today's hearing was an opportunity to hear from Accretive and Fairview, but it was also an opportunity to hear from patients and advocates about the real harm caused by bad debt collection and data privacy practices. I'm going to examine today's testimony and all the facts of this case and make sure our nation's laws do everything they can to protect patients in Minnesota."
Today's hearing featured testimony from senior representatives from Accretive and Fairview, as well as from Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Michael Rothman, and a number of patients and experts. A full list of witnesses is available here.
Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Health committee, arranged for the panel to hold the hearing after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson issued a report about whether Chicago-based Accretive Health Inc.'s debt collection and patient privacy practices violated federal health, debt collection, and privacy laws. Accretive Health Inc. formerly was a contractor for Fairview Health Services in Minnesota.
Sen. Franken is the author of the End Debt Collector Abuse Act, a bill designed to protect consumers from abusive and fraudulent debt collection practices. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. In November 2011, Sen. Franken held a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Your Health and Your Privacy: Protecting Health Information in a Digital World,” which focused on the privacy implications of electronic health records in hospitals.
A photo from today's hearing is available here.
Sen. Franken opening statement can be found here.
Testimony from today's panels:
Professor Michele Goodwin, Everett Fraser Professor in Law at the University of Minnesota
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
Mr. Greg Kazarian, Senior Vice President, Accretive Health, Inc.
Ms. Jean Ross, Former nurse at Fairview; Co-President, National Nurses Union
Mr. Charles Mooty, Interim CEO, Fairview Health Services
Jessica L. Curtis, Director, Hospital Accountability Project
The Honorable Michael Rothman, Commissioner of Commerce of the State of Minnesota