A front page article in yesterday’s New York Times (by Jessica Silver-Greenberg) reports that hospital patients waiting in an emergency room (or even convalescing after surgery) may find themselves confronted by a debt collector — right in the hospital! The Minnesota attorney general, Lori Swanson, claims that one of the nation’s largest medical debt collectors (Accretive Health) was engaging in such practices. The Minnesota attorney general has not yet filed any formal action. But her comments have raised concerns that such practices may have become common at various hospitals across the country.
I served on a hospital Board of Trustees for ten years, and I am certainly sympathetic with the increasing financial pressures faced by hospitals nationwide. Hospitals obviously have to employ various tactics to collect debts. It seems, however, that some hospital collection efforts may be crossing the line of what is reasonable.
The New York Times article is another vivid reminder that debt collectors in general are getting more and more aggressive. Focusing on asset protection (including insurance needs) before a problem arises is more important than ever.