Accretive Health Inc., the Chicago consulting firm that advised Fairview hospitals on debt collection, announced Tuesday that it has recruited a group of noted health-care policy leaders to develop national standards on how hospitals should interact with patients regarding bills and payment.

The group will be led by Michael Leavitt, former secretary of Health and Human Services. It will include Donna Shalala, another former HHS secretary; Tom Daschle, former U.S. senator from South Dakota; William Frist, a physician and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, whose family founded the Hospital Corporation of America; Jamie Gorelick, former deputy U.S. attorney general under President Clinton; and Mark B. McClellan, who ran the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush.

"Hospitals and doctors have a moral and legal obligation to treat patients in emergency situations,'' Leavitt said. But, he added, "in order to assure hospitals remain financially viable ... they must assist these same patients in making financial arrangements for payment.'' The panel will study existing practices and create standards to help patients understand charges and review billing and insurance arrangements.