Hospital Giant Discovers That Collecting Debt Pays Better Than Curing Ills

Bloomberg notes the amount of past-due medical debt in the U.S. is about $75 billion, spread among 43 million people, according to estimates from economists at MIT, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

But at least one hospital has found that collecting that debt can be quite profitable:

Most hospitals have finance departments or outside companies that try to ensure they get paid by insurers and patients. But Tenet has gone a step further than most, turning its operation into a separate business line called Conifer and contracting its services to other medical providers.

Conifer serves the 77 hospitals Tenet operates. It also works for more than 700 others, including hospitals run by the nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives, which owns a minority stake in the business. The collections agency that contacted Fowler, Central Financial Control, is the operating name of a Conifer subsidiary called Syndicated Office Systems LLC.

Conifer is one of the few bright spots at Tenet. The Dallas-based company is selling off hospitals to manage its $15 billion debt load. Even as Tenet has unloaded hospitals, it keeps them on as clients of Conifer, according to the company’s earnings presentation (PDF) last month.

For more information on the issues surrounding medical debt, please contact RIP Medical Debt.