by Sarah Barchus
The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview violated federal patient-protection law with billing practices and may be denied participation Medicare and Medicaid insurance programs, Pioneer Press reported.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated in a letter that Fairview violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which requires emergency rooms participating in Medicare to provide appropriate screening and treatment for patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Pioneer Press reported investigators also found Fairview failed to prevent patient harassment and properly address patient grievances.
The investigation of Fairview practices began after Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Accretive Health for dealing unethically with patients. Although Accretive denied fault, the company agreed to pay $2.5 million into a patient restitution fund and refrain from doing business in Minnesota for two years, the Star Tribune reported.
Fairview hired Accretive Health in 2010 for revenue consultation. Accretive trained Fairview medical staff in methods designed to maximize collection at the "point of service," a Fairview manager and 10 registration staff members told federal investigators.
Staff members said if they didn't stick to the script, they would be punished. This lead to the "abuse and harassment" of patients and relatives during bill collection in the emergency room, labor and delivery room, and other wards, the Star Tribune found in federal investigation documents.
Fairview's president Carolyn Wilson said that the hospital is working with the government to resolve the issues. Pioneer Press reported that Fairview stopped collecting past-due balances, co-insurance payments and co-pays in all emergency departments and re-trained staff on how to address patient concerns and approach billing.
Pioneer Press reported Wilson said in a statement that the hospital is learning from the experience.