Just when you thought it was safe to go to the ER…

Posted May, 1 2012 by arianne

Debt collectors! In the hospital! Posing as normal people – like you and me!

In case you missed it, the NY Times broke a story last week out of Minnesota about a practice that is becoming more and more common around the country: Hospitals that are embedding debt collectors as employees to try and get patients to make good on their debts – sometimes even before they are treated.

Now, we know that with so many folks walking around with no insurance many hospitals are in a pickle.  After all, lack of insurance – or lack of good insurance for that matter – has never stopped anyone from getting hit by a bus.  Then again, most hospitals do receive millions each year to compensate them for unpaid medical bills and to provide financial assistance.

But, regardless of how you look at it, the whole practice just seems extremely underhanded.  Often patients – who are vulnerable, either recovering from or still in need of medical care – don’t even realize that they are talking to a debt collector.

Thankfully, there may be some changes coming down the line that may put the kibosh on these types of sketchy hospital practices.  A recent guest blog on Community Catalyst’s Health Policy Hub points out that the Affordable Care Act now requires non-profit hospitals to screen patients to see if they are eligible for financial assistance before engaging in “extraordinary collections practices.”  Of course, how this all plays out will remain to be seen.  At any rate – it’s definitely an issue to watch!

Click here to read the full story, titled “Debt Collector is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals,” via the New York Times.

Click here to read the Health Policy Hub blog post, titled “The Debt Collector Will See You Now,” from guest blogger Amanda Moore of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law