Medical Collections is going to be the next big battlefield between Health Care Corporations and Patient Privacy.
I read a NY Times article today about this topic. It really burned my biscuits.
You show up in the emergency room with a serious injury. You’ve had dealings with this hospital before and have a big outstanding bill you can’t pay.
A so-called “Nurse” or “Hospital Administrator” shows up and starts using strong arm collection tactics to get you to pay your balance, throwing around your medical file like confetti and tossing out past medical procedures like it was anyone’s business.
You are threatened with non-treatment if you don’t get the past bill paid.
The heat is on and you don’t know what to do.
You’ve just been had. The person you were just dealing with is likely not even an employee of the hospital. You have just dealt with a professional bill collector under contract with one of several “Medical Collections” firms around the country.
Forget for a moment that mis-representing yourself as anything other than a bill collector is a crime. Medical collections is not a valid reason to turn anyone away.
Also, forget for a moment that violating HIPAA patient privacy laws are illegal and subject to a $500,000 fine for every occurrance. (Not to mention the individual and corporate liability exposure.)
Also remember it’s a crime for a hospital to turn away anybody in need of emergency treatment for any reason including past debt. They have to treat you.
Apparently this is becoming a wide-spread practice.
Next time you go to the emergency room make sure you have a family member with you to verify topics of conversation with anyone that enters the room. Better yet. I think it’s a good practice to record the whole emergency room experience so you will have a record for future court cases.
Of course it may not be so bad when the new health care laws go into effect and the IRS is tasked with collections. Smoke that for a bit and see how it tastes.