A two-year battle between the Attorney General of Washington and one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers appears to have come to a close, with the provider agreeing to refund $20 million back to individuals who may have been eligible for charity care and forgiving $137 million in medical debts — which will impact nearly 100,000 individuals.
The Background: The AG filed its lawsuit back in 2022, accusing it of putting pressure on patients to pay their debts and collecting $70 million from individuals who should have been eligible for charity care. The hospital denied the allegations and then The New York Times published an article detailing the program the hospital used to try and collect from low-income individuals.
- State law in Washington requires hospitals to provide charity care or medical financial assistance to anyone in the state, based on their income level and regardless of insurance status. Hospitals are required to notify patients about this option and check to see if they are eligible.
- The hospital was accused of deceiving patients into believing they had no choice but to pay their bills. Staff were allegedly trained to aggressively ask for payment from patients or just billed them without making any determinations. Thousands of patients had accounts placed with debt collectors, according to the suit.
The Settlement: The hospital will pay nearly $21 million in direct refunds, including 12% interest, to 34,300 patients. The hospital will also forgive $137.2 million in medical debts owed by 65,217 patients. The average payment going back to a patient receiving a refund is $478.