4-25-2012U.S. Debt Collectors working in Hospital Emergency Rooms demand payment before treatment
Hospital patients waiting in an emergency room or convalescing after surgery are being confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.
Hospitals have long hired outside collection agencies to pursue patients after they have left hospital facilities. But financial pressures are altering the collection landscape so that they are now letting collection firms in the front door, according to Don May, the policy adviser for the American Hospital Association, a trade group.
To achieve promised savings, hospitals turn over the management of their front-line staffing — like patient registration and scheduling — and their back-office collection activities.
Employees in the emergency room, for example, were told to ask incoming patients first for a credit card payment. If that failed, employees were told to say, “If you have your checkbook in your car I will be happy to wait for you”