… in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the most charitable description of what’s been going on at the clubby University of Minnesota medical school would be “bizarre.”
Monday, April 30, 2012
More Shame at Fairview-University Hospital
Deb Waldin showed up at Fairview Southdale's emergency room just after 8 one night last July with the worst pain she'd ever felt -- a kidney stone. While she waited to see a doctor, a man rolled a computer into her emergency-room bay and asked her to pay $750 or $800.
"I'm like, are you kidding me? Here I am dying and I'm just going to reach over to my purse and give you my credit card?" She kicked him out but is still furious about it to this day.
Waldin, 60, is just one of the patients to come forward with stories of aggressive billing tactics in the wake of last week's scathing report by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson about abuses at Fairview hospitals.
In a six-volume report, Swanson described how patients were harassed and manipulated after an Illinois consulting firm, Accretive Health, introduced sweeping changes to the culture of Fairview's seven Twin Cities hospitals and new strategies for collecting debts.
Fairview officials say they can't address every reported abuse, including those cited by Swanson.
Dr. David Hunter, a radiologist at the University of Minnesota, said he had heard complaints about the billing practices from colleagues at the university's hospital, which is owned by Fairview. But Hunter didn't really believe them until a couple of weeks ago, when a close friend arrived at the hospital for an MRI. The woman, a breast-cancer survivor, was ushered into a small room with a billing officer, who told her she had some unpaid bills to pay.
"She said, 'What bills? I have paid all my bills,'" Hunter said.
The man told her she hadn't received the bills yet, but still had to pay them. When she refused, the man pleaded that it would look bad on his record, Hunter said. His friend declined to be interviewed; but as a physician, Hunter said he was appalled. "It's targeting people when they're most vulnerable, which is to me ethically unconscionable," he said.
Some comments from readers:
It's shocking that Fairview allowed these disgusting practices to continue for as long as they did. My sympathies to the affected patients.
Two observations: "nonprofit" hospitals act just like for profit hospitals, they always try to maximize revenue. The CEO and the CFO should be held responsible for this inappropriate financial behaviour. They should be given the opportunity to make their way in the "for profit" world.
Fairview is awful. My son needed tests for possible cancer last year. They insisted we pay for all tests before we came on a credit card. When we got there, the doctor said we didn't need all the tests. I tried for months to get reimbursed for tests not given. Each time they said they would refund my credit card, but it never was. Months later they claimed they applied it to other bills of my family. Really??
How long a stretch is it from this sort of financial terrorism to the Ron Paul supporters' "Let him die!" attitude we saw during the primary debates?
Eutice and Moen have to go.....they both comment like they were unaware these practices were going on right underneath their noses and implemented by their own sons. Utterly disgusting Fairview. I could be on my deathbed and would make sure the ambulance driver didn't take me to a Fairview hospital.
As someone that has worked in a Fairview ER for over 10 years I can tell you that those caring for the patients don't care if you have insurance or not! We will treat you the same and often do not know or care how or if the bill is going to be paid. Those doing the patient care are in the business to do just that, care for the patient. I feel horrible that this has happened to patients as do my colleagues!
I am so glad I am in the northern ring burbs where for the past 7 years I have only to deal with Unity and Mayo (for cancer surgery). I will never step foot in a Fairview hospital after this report.
Fairview's problems started with the merger March, 1997. The bottom line is their top priority and now that they are experiencing severe financial issues due to the construction of the new Amplatz Children's Hospital, their bottom line will continue to take priority over the customer, their patients, and especially the employees of Fairview. There is absolutely no loyality to many who have served Fairview through think and thin. Again, Fairview's priority is the almighty dollar!
This is crazy! There is a pattern of bad decision-making rampant at Fairview. They seem to flaunt all sense of ethical behavior. Not only did Dr. Moen have a blatant conflict with his son working at Accretive and owning stock in the company, but he is owner of a company called netclinic that he pushes as part of his current role. This has been going on for years. Another case where truth is stranger than fiction. When will this group of leaders be held accountable for their disregard of their most basic and obvious fiduciary responsibility?!
If you've ever had a kidney stone you would not only think you were dying, you would wish you were dead. Expecting someone to deal with financial matters in that situation is as unethical as it gets. The bill collector might not be doing the torture themselves but they are surely trying to make use of it.
Wow, I am really glad to hear about these problems with Fairview. Changing this type of culture takes many years. I plan to avoid Fairview like the plague. I'll take my health care work someplace else. Also, I plan to tell everyone I know about Fairview too. I don't want any of my friends or relatives trusting these folks at all. Fairview is definitely not my kind of place. It's too bad. I used to use their services but I won't do in the future.
If Joint Commission (JCAHO) lowers Fairview's rating to "Provisional" they will NOT be able to be participating providers for most major health insurers(Medica, BCBS, HP). Fairview will also be removed as a 'Center for Excellence' for stem cell transplants and other high cost, specialty procedures. The investigation by JCAHO and CMS will have serious consequences for this health system.
I just experienced this on Friday last week. I brought my husband in for a CT scan in the morning. Before he was allowed to register he was told by an admissions Rep that he would have to pay 780 dollars up front because we have a 2000 dollar deductible on our insurance. It was only after I informed her that we would not be paying up front for the service that she said that they wouldn't withhold treatment if we didn't pay. It is implied that you have to pay to receive services. Little do any of them know my deductible has already been met and all my health care is covered 100% for the rest of the year. This is an outrageous invasion of privacy and extremely unethical!
Accretive should be shut down due to unethical actions. The emails about patients are disgusting. This is ridiculous and Fairview should have to answer too. Dont tell me they were unaware of the person in their ER or birthing rooms showing up with a computer trying to talk patients into giving up their credit cards...
Fairview has long "avoided" the controversies that have surrounded Allina, Healthpartners, etc. In this case the revelation that they had affiliated themselves with unscrupulous bill-collector's is less alarming than the financial, and nepotistic affiliation of President and CEO, Mark Eustis and Fairview Physician Associates President, Dr. Dave Moen. As Fairview operates the U of M Hospitals entities, I respectfully asked for the immediate resignation of Mr. Eustis and Dr. Moen!
I have very good health insurance and I, too, was bullied by bill collectors in the emergency room at Fairview University. I was 17 weeks pregnant and about to lose my baby. I was doubled over in pain with the contractions when a bill collector came in and demanded $200. I told her that my ER co-pay was only $75 and that I would probably be admitted, in which case my co-pay would be waived. She insisted several times that I pay before my husband kicked her out. She made some sort of comment under her breath on her way out, but I couldn't hear her over my sobs.
I have insurance and was also told as I made an appointment for an MRI how much it would cost. I thought it was odd. The scheduler asked me if I wanted to pay it (when I was scheduling) with a credit card. I said, "No. I have insurance." He proceeded to tell me my deductible and asked me if I understood how much I would be paying. I was really annoyed at his questioning. Of course I knew, would pay, and needed to have the MRI because of a possible brain tumor. Really disgusting conversation that made me feel like a dead beat criminal before I even came into the office.
"I'm here for Don Vito -- er, Accretive Health -- and I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse."
My sympathy to all who suffered at the hands of Accretive and their culture of greed. I won't be returning to Fairview. They may not be concerned about what their customers, err, patients think/thought, but Accretive is concerned about their investors after the stock loss of over 50% in value, and a securities fraud class action lawsuit filed last week. This is how Accretive understands the problem: "Accretive Health said it regrets that the recent activities of the Minnesota Attorney General have created a situation where Fairview felt it necessary to cancel its work with the Company in QTCC." Thank you Lori Swanson and the entire AG staff.
The fact that a hospital or an insurance company is "nonprofit" doesn't mean that they're a charity. It just means that they don't have investors or sell on the stock market. Fairview's CEO Mark Eustis, for all of his crocodile tears about dept collectors, makes a cool $1,500,000 a year and got a 51% pay raise when many others' wages were frozen. People ARE profiteering off of nonprofit healthcare systems. It's just not investors.
Fairview's comments act as if this company's actions was completely independent. It wasn't, Fairview hired them to do exactly what they did. The entire senior leadership team should be ousted for this.
at 8:43 PM