‘Greed’ was revealed, but don’t overlook Fairview’s caring folks

Luther Dorr

My father told me a long time ago, as he explained the meaning of the 8th Commandment, to “put the best construction on everything.”

In other words, try to cast things in a favorable light, even if people don’t deserve it sometimes.

I don’t claim to always have listened to my father but, through the years, despite the unbelievable salaries of CEOs and their stock options, etc., I’ve tried to believe that corporate greed isn’t as bad as some have said.

No more.

A couple times in the last two years I’ve kept a daily tabulation of gas prices. Last week, again, the price at a nearby station changed twice in one day.

I guess you’d have to be naive not to think the oil companies are messing with us, the poor souls who have to fork over the money to put gas in our cars.

Day after day, week after week, year after year, there are reminders that corporations are putting the squeeze on the little guy.

They’re not satisfied with making millions – they have to make a lot of extra millions. Or billions.

Don’t get me wrong. This is America, the land of opportunity for many years, and there’s nothing wrong with making a buck, Or making more than a buck.

True, some people born with a silver spoon in their mouth have a better chance of making that buck than others. But many have worked their way up the ladder the hard way and deserve everything they’ve gotten.

What really turns me off, as well as plenty of others like me, is a company that turns to unscrupulous means to generate income that may or may not be rightfully theirs.

And the latest example here in Minnesota is Fairview, a well-known hospital name that has served the Milaca, Princeton and Zimmerman areas well for a couple decades now.

The StarTribune ran a story on Wednesday of last week telling us that Attorney General Lori Swanson issued a report saying the company pressured patients to pay money before being treated.

Swanson’s report said that Fairview’s practices designed by Accretive Health, an Illinois consulting firm, appear to violate state and federal laws.

Fairview’s first comments were that it shared Swanson’s concerns, and that it had dropped Accretive as its revenue manager.  A couple days later Fairview dropped Accretive completely from other things it had contracted for.

Then the Minneapolis paper reported that two Fairview executives had ties with Accretive, including sons who work for Accretive. And one of the Fairview executives owns stock in Accretive.

Fairview CEO Mark Eustis, whose son works for Accretive, said in a story that Fairview hadn’t broken any laws but acknowledged Fairview’s reputation had been damaged.

I know many, many good people who work for Fairview, some of whom I’ve known for decades. And I wondered a bit at some of the stories in the StarTribune.

But there are just too many stories out there for me to believe there isn’t a problem.

Monday, for example, in a chance conversation, two people told me of instances where they had been asked to pay ahead of time, one of them a short time ago. It even happened to a Fairview employee. And it happened to someone else being admitted at an emergency room.

Someone else told about getting a bill that listed costs for physical therapy that simply hadn’t been done.

Do such practices qualify under the heading of corporate greed? I think so.

But let’s be frank: Our health care system is one big mess. Is health care for everyone an inalienable right? Many people’s minds have changed over the years and they now think that it is a right.

A friend who is a doctor in the Fairview system told me of support for a single-payer system that would take care of compensation problems, as well as giving patients the freedom to get care without any of the hassles we’ve read about the past few days.

That doctor told of free care that takes place, and of Fairview officials trying to be sensitive to those who don’t have the wherewithal to pay for some large bills.

That doctor also said that this flap with the attorney general could turn out to be a good thing if the payment system gets straightened out.

I don’t for a minute buy Accretive’s statement Monday that it didn’t pressure patients to pay early.  The facts are there. Nor do I buy that some Fairview people didn’t know what was going on.

It reminds us that there are lots of people out there who don’t care at all about people, as long as they get their money.

We should also be reminded that there are lots of good Fairview people – in Milaca, Princeton and Zimmerman – who do care about the people who come to see them. They’re not the ones who should come in for criticism.

Maybe we’ll all be better off when the smoke clears and action is taken.