ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – In a settlement Monday, Accretive Health agreed to stay out of Minnesota for as long as six years. It will also pay the state $2.5 million.
The settlement ends a six month legal battle over Accretive’s collection practices. Although the legal battle is over, the bad feelings will take some time to go away.
Accretive Health’s lawyer says 100 innocent employees are out of work because of Attorney General Lori Swanson’s motives for political gain.
But Swanson insists this settlement is exactly what was needed to close one of the more disturbing chapters in Minnesota health care history.
“In some ways, our lawsuit could be entitled, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” said Swanson.
The “Good”, according to Swanson, starts with the justice brought to more than 60 listed patients, many, including Sharon Todoroff, who shared their horror stories at Monday’s press conference.
“I feel very good that they’ve been banned from the state of Minnesota and that was my whole objective – that something is done,” she Todoroff.
As for the “Bad”, Swanson refers to putting dollars before dignity in hospital emergency rooms. JoAnn Larson, the wife of an ER patient, experienced the “Bad” firsthand.
“And I thought, ‘Wait a minute, you’re supposed to be treated in an emergency room before anything else.’ He would not let me leave his office until I produced a credit card,” said Larson.
Accretive Health’s attorney Joe Anthony says that wasn’t an Accretive employee. In fact, he says no Accretive employees have ever been named in this lawsuit.
“The reason that she did not identify them, because if she had we would have been able to point out to each of you that they weren’t Accretive employees,” said Anthony.
But the state says Accretive trained their workers who harassed patients. And this point of difference is where the “Ugly” comes to play, according to Minnesota Solicitor General Alan Gilbert
“The fact of the matter is you really can’t deny it, although you’re trying. You are sweating a lot. But what it was, Accretive was there to manage, direct, and train those people. Do you deny that, do you deny that?” asked a oombative Gilbert to Accretive attorney Anthony.
The way the settlement’s written, Accretive cannot reenter Minnesota for six years without the attorney general’s agreement.
As for whether the company will come back after that time, their attorney told me the decision will depend on both the healthcare and political climate.
While the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office doesn’t have jurisdiction to enforce the ban in other states, Swanson says she has passed along information and witness accounts to other states and hopes appropriate action will be taken.