The Attorney General of Washington State is planning to introduce a bill during the next legislative session that seeks to increase the eligibility for full write-offs on out-of-pocket medical bills for more than 1 million residents of the state.
The bill would make anyone earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level fully exempt from any out-of-pocket medical bills and makes discounts available for those up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Currently, for a one-person household, the federal poverty level is $12,880. For a four-person household, the limit is $26,500.
In Washington currently, individuals making less than 100% of the federal poverty level are eligible to have their medical bills written off, and hospitals are free to implement their own policies over and above that. This new bill, if passed, would make 2.2 million individuals in Washington eligible for full or discounted charity care.
“Health care is essential for every Washingtonian, not just for those who can afford it,” said Bob Ferguson, Washington’s Attorney General, in a statement. “A single parent working two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet is not eligible for charity care under current law. No one should be forced to choose between health care and putting food on the table. This bill helps provide more equitable health care access to millions of low-income Washingtonians.”
In promoting the proposed legislation, the AG’s office cited statistics that two-thirds of individuals who file for bankruptcy protection cite medical issues as a key contributor and that more than 50% of collection items on consumers’ credit reports are for medical debts.