MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing Accretive Health Incorporation, a debt collection agency. It stems from an incident last year when someone stole a laptop with medical information for more than 23,000 North Memorial and Fairview patients.

Swanson said Accretive Health Incorporated violated patients’ privacy and also played a role in patients’ health care, which patients did not know.

“My data might very well be on that laptop,” said Kathleen Quinn, who filed complaint with the attorney general after she said Accretive Health Incorporated harassed her over her Fairview hospital bill. “It was not on the letters that they sent to me saying we are collecting for a debt.”

Under consumer protection laws, companies have to tell you they are attempting to collect a debt.

“They are a debt collector and they are not disclosing that,” said Swanson.

One of the letters Quinn got from the company said they couldn’t reach her. She said she got this reaction when she called the company back.

“They put me on hold and then they hung up on me,” said Quinn.

Swanson said Accretive Health had medical information about patients on the laptop that was stolen last July: Everything from a patient’s social security number, to 22 different chronic medical conditions, from HIV to seizure disorders. This didn’t sit too well with Quinn.

“It’s none of your business. First of all, as a debt collection agency, they are not entitled to my medical records,” said Quinn.

Also, the information was not encrypted, so anyone could get it.

“No one has notified me that there is a possibility that my information is on there,” said Quinn.

Swanson also says Accretive Health used the information to score patients — something like a credit rating to see if patients were more likely to be hospitalized.

North Memorial has yet to comment, but Fairview gave WCCO-TV a statement, saying, “We are re-doubling our efforts to safeguard our patients’ health information.”

Sonya Goins, Producer
Contact Sonya

Comments (11)
  1. Swamp Fox says:

    Hospitals have been using debt collectors with nefarious ways for years. It’s about time these collectors and hospitals get exposed.

    If you ever dealt with a hospital debt collector check you credit bureau records. You might be surprised on what you find even when you have cleared up the medical debts.

    This story is probably the tip of the iceberg regarding collection practices of debt collection for hospitals and/or the medical care business. Think about it! Your credit ratings and good names are at stake.

  2. Healthcare worker says:

    It’s not the Hospital, it’s the collection agency that was at fault. The CONTRACT clearly states the HIPAA laws and that those laws should be followed. Hospitals do a great job, for the most part, of protecting patient information. I would know, I’ve worked for three since HIPAA was initiated.

    1. Marge says:

      Well then maybe these hospitals need to pick a better vendor to help them make money.

    2. Guy says:

      WHY was the medical info on that computer to begin with?? WHERE did the PATIENT sign a release that says a debt collector can look at MEDICAL (as opposed to financial – which the WOULD need) info. I think that unless North & Fairview can produce releases from ALL the patients on that laptop; THEY should be added to the suit.

  3. Greg says:

    This is not a collection agency the Star Tribune should be issuing a formal appology to all debt collectors. Get the story right instead of trying to make headlines.

    1. Swamp Fox says:

      If it looks like a duck, quarks like a duck, and walks like a duck then it must be a duck! The same holds true for the company in this story sued as a debt collector. Hospitals should know who they hire for debt collection and financial affairs. Ignorance is no excuse here when dealing with people’s private credit and medical information. The hospitals should be held accountable for who they hire by outsourcing.

  4. Murph says:

    The health Insurance industry,retailers and a lot more are on a collision course with disaster!The banks,hedge funds and oil and gasoline prices will begin to COMPLETELY tap out the middle class before this winter is over! When only the 1or 2% can afford anything extra.It will be the biggest economic crash in history.The Party of NO will be most visable culprits having trashed every effort of economic stimulis by adding gifts to the super wealthy to everything they pass! Greed has blinded that segment of society to the trickle up phenomena that this round of assininity will surely visit on the those who feel so rich,gifted and talented that it can’t touch them.P.T.Barnum knew different! The 1% have to at least BEGIN to see,that it is THEY who have the farthest to fall Welcome to the jungle rich boys and girls.It’s going to be a whole new experience for ya! How will you sell your one or two hundred thousand dollar car or SUV when nobody is buying?

  5. Sven says:

    Once the federal government takes over, I’m sure things will be much better…NOT!

    Lori has refused to join the lawsuit against Obama Care

    1. Murph says:

      When you look at the whole picture,the Obama care has actually tried to slow the pace of the race to greed armeggadon by health insurers!If not for the GOP your rates might not continue to rise far beyond inflation.Unfortunately we are saddled with the Grover Norquist Congress,aka the Jack Abramoff Congress.You see Jack and Grover are pards,but Jack took the fall to save his pal Grover! Look it up in your GOP handbook if you have one ,or just search the net.Find what your heroic GOP has signed on to! P.T. Barnum saw you coming! So did Murdoch and his Faux news.Buck the trend and wise up you non1% GOP wannabee’s! Your family ,neighbors and friends know you ain’t rich,live with it.

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