Accretive blasts Minnesota AG for Fairview report

The consulting firm says the attorney general misused information it provided for a January lawsuit.

Accretive Health has accused Minnesota's Attorney General of releasing confidential documents and negotiating in bad faith in connection with last week's public report blasting the consulting firm for its debt-collection practices at Fairview hospitals.

In a letter released Wednesday, Accretive's lawyer said Attorney General Lori Swanson had distorted the company's business practices and blindsided the firm by releasing information Accretive had provided "voluntarily and confidentially."

"These lapses have already harmed Minnesota patients who deserve quality care at a more affordable price and the tens of thousands of employees who work for Fairview and Accretive Health in Minnesota and elsewhere," wrote Andrew Clubok, Accretive's attorney, in a letter addressed to Minnesota's solicitor general, Alan Gilbert.

Last week, Fairview cut off all ties to Accretive after Swanson released a six-volume report detailing what she said were abusive and illegal tactics to pressure patients for money in emergency rooms, cancer wards and other areas.

Clubok accused Swanson of waging a "public campaign of misinformation" that had put Accretive's "important work" in peril. He said the company had been working with Fairview to reduce medical bills and improve patient health, as well as increase collections "from third-party payers" and help uninsured patients get coverage.

He said Accretive officials had been negotiating with Swanson to settle issues from a January lawsuit, in which she accused the company of violating health privacy and consumer protection laws. But he said the attorney general's office, by releasing last week's report, "broke its commitments and ignored its obligation to proceed in good faith."

A statement from Swanson's office said its review of the Accretive-Fairview relationship is accurate and documented by facts. It adds to a long history of Minnesota Attorney General investigations into tax-exempt, nonprofit health care providers, the statement said.

"There is an old saying among lawyers: 'If the facts aren't on your side, talk about the law. If the law's not on your side, talk about the facts. And if you don't have either on your side, pound the table and blame someone else,''' Swanson's statement said. "That's what's going on here.''

mlerner@startribune.com • 612-673-7384 tkennedy@startribune.com • 612-673-4213

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