Franken measure would toughen patient debt collection rules

Sen. Franken
U.S. Sen. Al Franken led a hearing regarding the debt-collection practices of Fairview Hospital and Accretive Health in St. Paul, Minn. Wednesday, May 30, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Minnesota DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken says he'll introduce legislation Wednesday to toughen laws related to patient privacy and debt collection practices.

Last month, Franken held a hearing in which Fairview Southdale patients testified that the hospital's former debt collector, Accretive Health, approached them for payments in the emergency room.

On Monday, the Treasury Department proposed banning debt collection activities in the emergency departments of non-profit hospitals. Franken says he wants to expand that ban to cover all hospitals.

"Someone collecting debt or someone collecting a bill can't go into an emergency room while someone's writhing on a gurney who hasn't seen a doctor yet; someone can't go into a labor room, or a delivery room and do that," he said.

In addition, Franken says he'll introduce a bill that would require companies to encrypt all laptops that contain patient medical information. That move follows news that an unencrypted laptop stolen from an Accretive employee's rental car contained sensitive information on 23,000 patients, and the names, but no personal health information, of about 242,000 Fairview Health System patients.

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