Accretive asks judge to dismiss attorney general's lawsuitby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The company that has helped Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Medical Center collect debts from patients has asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in January accuses Chicago-based Accretive Health of breaking federal and state health privacy and debt collection laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident in which a laptop belonging to an Accretive Health employee was stolen out of his car last summer. Accretive Health hadn't responded to the lawsuit until Monday, when attorneys for the company filed a motion for dismissal. A hearing on the motion was scheduled for August.
The stolen laptop contained private medical information of about 23,000 Fairview and North Memorial patients.
In the court documents, Accretive Health said it didn't violate privacy laws because there's no evidence the information on the laptop was compromised. The company called the attorney general's other allegations a "factually baseless and legally meritless attack."
"What is worse is that rather than litigate this case in the courtroom, the attorney general orchestrated a nationwide media campaign against Accretive Health," the company said in court documents.
Swanson's spokesman, Ben Wogsland, said the state will respond to the dismissal motion in the coming months.
"We're very confident in the legal claims as laid out in the complaint," he said.
Accretive Health's response comes the week after Swanson released additional documents questioning Accretive Health's business practices. MPR News and other local media outlets joined The New York Times and Chicago Tribune in reporting on the allegations. Accretive responded on Sunday, saying Swanson's report contained "inaccuracies, innuendo and unfounded speculation."
Swanson said in her report that Accretive Health often attempted to collect payments from emergency room patients, and sometimes did so before offering them care. Such a practice violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, she said.
Accretive Health said those allegations are false. The company said more than 90 percent of revenue collected comes from third-party payers.
"Where the patient owes part of the bill, we examine each and every episode of care to ensure that patients are not improperly charged and that the insurance companies are held accountable for what they owe to providers," Accretive Health said in a written statement.
Fairview Health Services no longer contracts with Accretive Health to collect patient debts, but the hospital system still works with the company through another contract aimed at controlling costs and evaluating quality.
North Memorial Medical Center, which has said it is cooperating with the attorney general's investigation, still has a debt collection contract with Accretive Health. But because of an agreement between the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Accretive Health, the company has stopped collecting debts in Minnesota until the two sides work out issues over how the company does it.
According to court documents filed by Accretive Health attorneys, the agreement with the Commerce Department is another reason the lawsuit should be dismissed.