Providence recently published a letter answering a series of questions raised by a senator about its debt collection practices.
The letter was a response to one sent by Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, to Rod Hochman, president and CEO of Providence, on September 28. Murray’s letter in a hurry to get answers about the health system debt collection practices of 52 hospitals. She wrote it just days after a New York Times report emerged detailing Providence’s efforts to aggressively charge qualified patients for free or discounted care.
The health system’s payment collection practices have come under intense scrutiny since February, when the Washington attorney general filed a lawsuit against Providence, alleging that 14 of its hospitals were “aggressively raising money from low-income Washingtonians eligible for charitable care.”
Murray asked Providence to address “disturbing” practices alleged in the report, including “high-pressure billing conversations in hospital beds when patients are vulnerable, the use of extraordinary collection actions by debt collectors and patients eligible for free or discounted care being billed for outstanding balances.
In the letter, she pointed out that patients in Providence have been left without food or warmth, seen their credit ratings plummet, and been afraid to seek other health services “all because of practices that potentially violate human rights.” state and federal laws.
Giving Providence an Oct. 12 deadline, Murray demanded that it provide data on how many patients the health system has provided care for in recent years who were eligible for free or reduced-cost care, as well than the number he sent to debt collection services.
Hochman sent his response letter on Murray’s deadline day. In his response, he said health system policy prevented him from sending patients identified as charitable care or eligible for Medicaid to collections.
Murray also requested information on the amount paid by Providence McKinsey & Co. to design “Rev-Up”, a revenue growth program. Rev-Up trained employees on how to pressure patients to pay for their care and asked them to withhold information about financial assistance, according to Murray’s letter. The steps in the program were to “request full payment, then request half payment, then offer a payment plan and, only after all other efforts have failed, acknowledge the existence of financial assistance,” a she writes.
Rev-Up “was a short-lived, limited program that no longer exists,” Hochman said. He did not disclose how much Providence paid McKinsey to design the program.
“The intent was not to target people in financial difficulty,” Hochman wrote. “It has instead focused on helping those who are commercially insured and have the means to pay, to better understand their personal expenses. We recognize that the original training materials, and even the name Rev-Up, n were not in line with our values.
He noted that Providence “significantly reduced” its reliance on consultants.
Hochman’s response also said Providence has begun issuing refunds with interest to Medicaid patients who made payments after being sent to collections due to an error the health system has now resolved.
Providence’s six-page letter denied aggressively pursuing its poorest patients for medical debt, saying its “commitment to those in need has never been stronger”.
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