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Chicago-Based Collection Agency Settles Suit Over High-Pressure Tactics

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (CBS) — A Chicago-based debt collection company is settling a lawsuit that accused it of using abusive methods to collect from patients on their hospital bills.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, back in January, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a lawsuit accusing Accretive Health of using high-pressure tactics to collect from hospital patients who were still in pain from recent surgeries, or who were still waiting for care.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

Swanson’s investigation stemmed from the theft of an unencrypted laptop containing private information for 23,500 patients out of an Accretive employee’s car.

“It’s good to close the door on this disturbing chapter in Minnesota health care,” Swanson said.

Accretive said in a statement that the settlement allows the company to move on without admitting liability or wrongdoing, but it will cost more than 100 jobs in Minnesota.

“Entering into this settlement agreement allows our Company to put this matter behind us and prevents further distraction from the important work that we do for our hospital clients,” Chief Executive Officer Mary Tolan said in the statement.

The company works with hospitals to maximize revenue, including efforts to enroll qualified patients in health insurance. Accretive also said it has improved its encryption of laptops after firing the employee who left the unencrypted laptop in his car.

U.S. District Richard Kyle of St. Paul approved the settlement Monday.

In its statement, Accretive said Swanson’s investigation “did not and could not identify a single patient” in Minnesota who had a bad experience with an Accretive employee or alleged they were denied care.

Joe Anthony, a Minneapolis attorney representing Accretive, accused Swanson of putting pressure on the company for political gain.

“She turned it into a media circus,” Anthony told the Associated Press Monday in a telephone interview.

Accretive is also the subject of a separate lawsuit in Chicago, filed on behalf of shareholder Linda Wong.

The suit filed in Cook County Circuit court in April seeks class-action status suit on behalf of other shareholders who bought Accretive shares from March 2, 2011 to April 24, 2012.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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