Medical Credit Stores: Sorry, You Only Qualify for Subprime Medical Care

Bob Sullivan reports at MSNBC on the early developments of a medical privacy score by Fair Issac, the same company that invented the credit score for lenders. This is somewhat scary, because the entire point of credit scores is to make decision making easier, so easy that people very low on the totem pole can make decisions about you without really thinking, and because it is a number, it is imbued with an air of legitimacy. Credit scores arose after Congress forced consumer reporting agencies to open up their files; scoring allowed companies to put their analysis back into a black box so you can’t tell for sure what information they use to evaluate you.

Several published reports have described Healthcare Analytics product as a MedFICO score, computed in a way that would be familiar to those who’ve used credit scores. The firm is gathering payment history information from large hospitals around the country, according to a magazine called Inside ARM, aimed at “accounts receivable management” professionals. It will then analyze that data to predict how likely patients will be to pay future medical bills. As with credit reports and scores, patients who’ve failed to pay past bills will be deemed less likely to pay future bills.


Tim Hurley, a spokesman for Healthcare Analytics, said criticism of the firm’s work is purely speculative, as its product is still in development. Even the term MedFICO is inaccurate, he said


Hurley did say, however, that hospitals will not use the Healthcare Analytics product before patients receive medical treatment, and it will have no impact on medical decisions.


The Healthcare Analytics tool will be used after patients receive care and after a bill is generated to help hospitals make better financial planning decisions, Hurley said. It will also help health care providers sort through patient records and potentially make it easier to write off some unpaid bills as charity cases, rather than delinquent accounts, which would offer the hospital some accounting benefits, he said.

The firm “is particularly focused on finding ways to help hospitals systematically allocate charitable resources, to make sure that patients who need financial assistance the most receive it on a consistent basis across the industry,” he said.

I guarantee you that this is not the primary function of medical credit scores, and that it will, one way or another, be used to get certain people out the door faster than others.