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Tenet sees chasing medical debt as strong business

A mid-Victorian depiction of the debtors’ prison at St Briavels Castle, England.

Giant Tenet Healthcare Corp. has found a very lucrative business in helping hospitals that it doesn’t own get some medical debt repaid.

As a Bloomberg article notes, there’s a lot of money in his: “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. About half of all collections lines on credit reports are related to medical debt, a 2014 report (PDF) from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau showed.”

“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 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. {But} Acting Chief Executive Officer Ronald Rittenmeyer, during Tenet’s earnings call Nov. 7, said he plans to cut jobs at Conifer, which employed 15,570 people at the end of 2016.”

“’The stakes are higher, the dollars are bigger and therefore, they simply can’t afford to not be good at this,’ said Jim Lazarus, managing director at Advisory Board Co., a hospital consulting company.”

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