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Accretive pays $2.5M fine, booted from Minnesota for 2 years

Crash latest tragedy for coach’s family; “Quick Kurt” imitates Wellstone ad; Minneapolis Fire Department study inflames situation; and more.

Accretive Health, best known in these parts for squeezing money out of hospital patients while hemorrhaging in the emergency room, will exit Minnesota under its deal with the attorney general. The New York Times story says: “Accretive Health, one of the nation’s largest collectors of medical debt, has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Minnesota state attorney general’s office to settle accusations that it violated a federal law requiring hospitals to provide emergency care, even if patients cannot afford to pay.
The company has not admitted wrongdoing. As part of Monday’s settlement, Accretive Health is also barred from contracting with hospitals within the state for at least two years, effectively ending its business at three Minnesota hospitals. For four years after that, the company will have to obtain permission from the attorney general before resuming business in the state. … The revelations in Minnesota have reverberated across the country because they raise concerns that such aggressive tactics have become widespread at hospitals. Accretive Health contracts with some of the largest hospital systems in the country to help them recoup money on unpaid bills that have piled up during the financial crisis and the economic downturn.”

At the Strib, Tony Kennedy and Maura Lerner write:The fallout, which drew national headlines, cost Mark Eustis his job as Fairview CEO and prompted at least two federal investigations, including a Senate hearing in May. [Attorney General Lori] Swanson said she has referred several patient affidavits to federal officials. Under federal law, hospitals are required to assess and stabilize emergency room patients without regard to their ability to pay. Accretive, however, said Monday that Swanson ‘did not and could not identify a single patient’ who had been denied care or had a bad experience with an Accretive employee. It continued to assert that Swanson’s actions were ‘unnecessarily aggressive’ and cost more than 100 Minnesotans their jobs. Joe Anthony, an attorney for Accretive, said it settled because the attorney general was making it too difficult to do business in the state. Accretive was confident it would prevail in court, but in the meantime would have to deal with more negative publicity, he said.” Accretive, you see, is a job creator.

At the PiPress, Christopher Snowbeck adds: “Swanson replied, however, that the company’s claim was like ‘the pot calling the kettle black.’ Accretive Health was in the practice of eliminating jobs at Fairview, she said, and routinely sends work overseas. Swanson said the settlement money will go into a restitution fund and a retired judge will help decide how it’s distributed among patients. ‘I’m confident that we would not have gotten more money than ($2.49 million) had we taken the case to trial in court,’ Swanson said.”

The story of the Southwest Minnesota State basketball coach is sad in so many ways. In the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, Terry Vandrovec writes of the crash that killed the coach’s 5-month-old son: “An online report from the Minnesota State Patrol said that a southbound car being driven by Dana Schoen of Starbuck swerved into the northbound lane and forced an accident with a vehicle carrying four people: [coach Brad] Bigler; his son, Drake; his wife, Heather; and Heather’s grandmother, Sharon Schuler. Heather Bigler was driving and swerved in an attempt to avoid the oncoming car. The vehicles collided in the southbound lane. The report also said alcohol was detected in the system of Schoen, 38, and is suspected to be a factor in the accident. Schoen was unharmed. Heather Bigler suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, while Brad Bigler, 33, was listed in stable condition and Schuler, 74, in critical condition, according to Southwest Minnesota State. State records show Schoen had been convicted of gross misdemeanor drunken driving in 2005 and for driving under the influence in 2000, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In both cases, the man’s blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.20, or 2½ times the legal limit in Minnesota. He also has convictions for reckless driving and speeding. … Only 13 months ago, Bigler lost his mother, Diane Bigler-Hagenow, in a kayaking accident during a family trip.”

The breathless coverage of pro football training camps is always a bit over the top. But then sometimes you get something like this … Says Brian Murphy at the PiPress: “Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was rushed to a Mankato hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to seafood during a team lunch but was successfully treated and cleared to resume his rehabilitation at training camp. Coach Leslie Frazier said Peterson’s face swelled up and he experienced shortness of breath while eating at the Vikings’ dormitory at Minnesota State University following the morning walk-through.” So now you understand why Brett Favre just skipped that silly practice thing.

I’m not sure how many people think “another Paul Wellstone” when they see GOP Senate candidate Kurt Bills. At the AP, Patrick Condon reports: “Kurt Bills’ campaign released an online ad Monday, July 30, that mimics nearly shot for shot the landmark 1990 campaign ad [titled] ‘Fast Paced Paul.’ That offbeat ad introduced Wellstone, then a virtually unknown college professor, to Minnesota voters. Initially seen as a sure loser, Wellstone upset incumbent Republican Rudy Boschwitz that year. Bills — a high school economics teacher also largely unknown to state voters — is encouraging a comparison as he challenges the popular and well-funded Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar. The version from Bills, ‘Quick Kurt,’ can only be viewed online. Bills’ campaign manager, Mike Osskopp, said the financially challenged campaign hopes to raise enough to put it on TV in September.”

Wellstone’s son, David, isn’t amused. The AP says: “The son of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone says an online ad from a Republican U.S. Senate candidate is ‘disrespectful’ of his father’s memory. … But Dave Wellstone tells The Associated Press that his father and Bills would have been ‘polar opposites’ politically.  
For its $147,000, the city of Minneapolis got a survey that included erroneous data and PO’d its already peeved firefighters. In the Strib, Randy Furst says: “A study designed to help Minneapolis evaluate its fire department at a time of budget cuts and low morale has only inflamed an acrimonious situation by including a statistical error that overstated the amount of sick time firefighters were taking. [The company] acknowledged the error at a City Council committee meeting on Monday, but not before the Minneapolis Firefighters Union had denounced the $147,000 study as a ‘waste of money’ and ‘a slur on our membership’ that painted union members as ‘lazy and malingerers.’ ” Other than that, they loved it.

It was probably fun while it lasted … . In the Marin Independent Journal, Gark Klien writes:A 21-year-old Minnesota man suspected of stealing a car and driving to California with two teenagers was arrested in Stinson Beach, authorities said Monday. Jacob Dwaine Engler was booked into Marin County Jail while authorities prepared a warrant to have him brought back to Minnesota. The two teens, a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, were taken to Juvenile Hall until they could be reunited with their families. Authorities were investigating whether to seek child abduction charges against Engler, said Sheriff John Holtz of Swift County, Minn. Holtz said Engler, a friend of the teens, did not have their parents’ permission to take them on a road trip … On Saturday, investigators tracked Engler’s cellphone to the Bolinas-Stinson Beach area and asked the Marin County Sheriff’s Office for help finding him, said sheriff’s Lt. Barry Heying. Deputies found Engler and the teens Saturday afternoon in the parking lot at Stinson Beach.” … Where they were stunned at the price of a round of aromatherapy and a decent Cuba Libra.