Debt Collectors Gone Wild at Catholic Hospitals and Other Non-Profits

Health Care

New Orleans    A story in the Times of a Minnesota investigation of an aggressive debt collection company that might be breaking all kinds of HIPPA laws designed to protect patient care information along with other statues caught my eye.  This seemed at first glance to be another story of our imploding health care crises.  The company, Accretive Health, even seemed to have become embedded in the emergency room and registration areas for hospitals and in some cases collecting money upfront and at the door before treatment was accorded.  Damn!

In the story the company would not reveal whether it was under investigation in other states or much about its business.  All of that made me curious.  Looking at their website the mystery just got deeper.  Who are their Board of Directors?  Website wouldn’t say?  Where do they work?  No information.  Their motto was interesting:  “we do good by helping  you do well.”  Kinda creepy when we are really talking about a debt collection machine!  A video clip of their CEO, Mary Tolan, gave a small clue when she started off message by saying their main business was with nonprofits.

And, not just any nonprofits it seems for this Chicago-based New York Stock Exchange company.  Their founding partner hospital was Ascension, the huge Catholic nonprofit based in St. Louis which is supported by the Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Joseph.  Elsewhere a news release trumpeted a new deal with Catholic Healthcare-East where they will be managing the front and backend of the operation to maximize revenue collection and retention.

Their board?  Well a co-founder and the Chair of the board is a J. Michael Cline, who seems to run a private equity firm called, Accretive, and has an avocation according to the Wall Street Journal for conserving wild cats.  The one name that jumped out was Edgar Bronfman, Jr., the liquor heir wildly known for investing and managing with some difficulties first in Hollywood and more recently with Warner Music.   I could find a list with not much else in their 2011 annual report.

Their SEC filing has one simple sentence about the Minnesota investigation but even though a public company reveals nothing else with a May 2nd annual meeting on the horizon in hardly a week.

Why so secretive?

What is the real relationship and connection to all of these giant Catholic healthcare networks and hospital systems?

What’s going on here with Accretive Health and its clients?