Accretive Health, Inc. (NYSE: AH) announced today that prominent health care and policy leaders have agreed to convene to develop a process for implementing national standards for how hospitals and other providers interact with patients regarding their financial obligations. This process will create first-of-kind national standards for understanding expected charges, available resources, counseling, billing and payment procedures regardless of the ability to pay. An independent accreditation process will accompany the new standards, providing patients with assurance that they will be treated compassionately and fairly. The group will identify and select an independent non-profit Standard Development Organization (SDO) to conduct a collaborative process among practitioners, patient advocates, and other interested parties. Once concluded, the group will advance the identified standards to a national accrediting organization. Accretive Health initiated this process in order to provide clarity and consistency among providers and, as a result, help ensure a more uniform and transparent experience for patients as hospitals work to become more financially stable and bring down the cost of care. The following noted health care and policy leaders have agreed to serve as independent conveners of the process: CHAIRMAN Michael O. Leavitt – Former Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, three-term governor of Utah and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He is currently the founder of Leavitt Partners, which specializes in the health care field, and has led numerous large public and private collaborations. ADVISORS Tom Daschle – Former U.S. Senator from South Dakota, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a respected health care thought leader. He is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a member of the Health Policy and Management Executive Council at the Harvard School of Public Health. Bill Frist, M.D. – Former U.S. Senator from Tennessee, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, nationally recognized heart and lung transplant surgeon and health care thought leader. He was the 2010 Distinguished Professor of Business and Medicine at Vanderbilt University. Jamie Gorelick, J.D. – Partner at the international law firm, WilmerHale, formerly served as U.S. Deputy Attorney General, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Assistant to the Secretary of Energy, and as a member of the 9-11 Commission. She currently serves as co-chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Ethics. Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D – Director, Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, former Administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He is a physician and economist. Donna E. Shalala, Ph.D – President of the University of Miami and former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in 2008. Gov. Leavitt, who will lead the group, made the following statement about the collaboration and the need for standards:
“Hospitals and doctors have a moral and legal obligation to treat patients medically in emergency situations and to do it in a compassionate and fair way. In doing so, medical providers face a dilemma. In order to assure hospitals remain financially viable and available to patients, they must assist these same patients in making financial arrangements for payment. Hospitals desire to do that in a sensitive and appropriate way, however, currently there are no clear standards to help guide their efforts. This collaboration is an effort to provide clear standards to help medical practitioners continuously improve – while at the same time, providing patients with tools to help them know which hospitals and doctors follow the national standards.”The selected SDO will convene relevant stakeholders from the health care industry – including patient advocates, small and large health systems, privacy experts, physicians, insurers, Medicaid advocates, state Medicaid officials, trade organizations and others – to evaluate current counseling, billing and payment practices. They will inventory existing standards, collect information on industry best practices, solicit public input, establish requirements for voluntary consensus standards and select a national accrediting body to certify the standards. Accretive Health and other interested organizations with responsibility to assure respectful and compassionate treatment of patients will be invited to participate. It is anticipated that the conveners will organize in May and commence their work in June. Because of the importance of this issue, Accretive Health, along with participating health care organizations, will provide financial resources for the creation of the group, which will act independently of any institution or health care organization in creating national standards for accreditation. Neither Accretive nor any of the health care organizations that provide support or input will play any role at all in the activities of the panel other than being interviewed by the independent Standards Development Organization to collect data. The participating organizations will have no insight into the panel’s conclusions until they are final and announced.
In a statement, Accretive Health CEO Mary Tolan invited others to join in the standards-setting process and expressed the Company’s intent to earn full accreditation:“We believe strongly the industry will benefit from a thoughtful, independent, collaborative review and process, and we feel confident the industry will welcome this as a solution to a difficult, but critical challenge every patient and medical provider shares. We believe we have been a positive part of the process to date in our work for leading health care providers, helping thousands of formerly uninsured individuals get coverage for care. We hope this group becomes the gold standard for compassionate and fair patient interaction, reducing system errors and anxiety among patients about their cost of care, and making sure they are informed about coverage options regardless of their ability to pay.” ABOUT ACCRETIVE HEALTH Accretive Health partners with healthcare providers to help them more effectively manage their revenue cycles, strengthen their financial stability, and improve the quality of care they provide while reducing overall healthcare costs. Our people, processes and sophisticated integrated technology complement our clients’ existing resources to enhance results for patients, physicians and staff. For more information visit www.accretivehealth.com.