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Posted: 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hospitals stationing bill collectors in the ER

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By Clark Howard


If you thought health care couldn't get any worse in America, I'm about to shock you.

The attorney general of Minnesota is investigating allegations that some hospitals are sending third party debt collectors dressed as employees into emergency rooms. During triage, these collectors will run a credit check on you to determine if you're likely to pay your bill.

If you can't pay, the collectors are reportedly trained to "discourage [patients] from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler rooms," according to a lengthy write-up in The New York Times. Meanwhile, the bill collectors had access to your sensitive health info, constituting a likely violation of privacy laws.

Even worse, there are allegations that these debt collectors masquerading as hospital employees may be demanding payment from people on stretchers before treatment! This is allegedly even going on at hospitals that have non-profit status, which means the hospitals receive massive subsidies from taxpayers in return for the promise to provide charitable care.

I know we have a problem with hospitals being expected to treat patients with no expectation of payment. But using tactics to deflect a patient out who needs urgent care is unlawful, plain and simple.

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