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CEO Retires After Debt Collection Scandal

May 25, 2012

The CEO at Fairview Health Services, Mark Eustis, is approaching an early retirement – but not by choice. Because of his involvement in a chain of the most infamous debt collection scandals of the decade, Eustis will not be renewing his contract with Fairview when it ends this July.

Insurance News reports that Fairview’s board chairman, Chuck Mooty, will be filling Eustis’ shoes until a permanent replacement is hired.

The events that led to reshaping the way collection agencies and debtors abide the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) began in Minnesota inside the Fairview hospital chain that employed the most renowned collection agency in the country, Accretive Health, LLC.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit against the company after a corporate laptop containing data from 23,000 patients was reported stolen from a car in a hospital parking lot. 

Swanson accused Accretive of egregious breaches of patient privacy, but the investigation following the event reveals that privacy breaches were only the tip of the iceberg.

Accretive Health agents reportedly slipped in and out of emergency rooms, cancer wards, pediatric wings and everywhere in between, masked as members of the hospital staff. Agents, often perched bedside, would badger patients over how they planned on paying for their visit.

The New York Times reports that Accretive staff members were encouraged by management to “get cracking on labor and delivery…because there’s a good chunk that can be collected there.”

Patients deemed repeat offenders for visiting the hospital with unsettled bills were flagged and stalked. Sometimes patients were stopped before they reached the front desk and ordered to pay upfront.

These egregious actions caught the attention of doctors who voiced concern when patients would refuse vital treatment for fear of what it may cost. Accretive representatives dismissed these concerns as “country club talk.”

Eustis, himself, admitted to Pioneer Press last month that “it’s obvious that we placed some of our employees in uncomfortable situations.”

Eustis’ acknowledgement was more than Fairview’s Board or Accretive Health officials offered the public. Both parties have adamantly denied allegations that patients were denied treatment for any reason.

Mark Eustis was said to be “instrumental” in hiring Accretive Health for Fairview hospitals. However, he has also been deemed a “champion of health care reform.”

In 2010, U.S. hospitals were left with $39.3 billion in uncompensated healthcare; subsequently, 2010 was when Eustis hired the agency where his son reportedly works.

Last year, Accretive drew in $29.2 million in net income. After Fairview cancelled Accretive contract in April, their stock saw a major dip of 19 percent. 

Edited by Braden Becker

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