EVERETT, Washington — On Thursday, Providence and Attorney General Bob Ferguson both announced that an agreement had been reached about charity care procedures at the organizations that make up the healthcare system.
The Office of the Attorney General’s case has been settled, with Providence agreeing to pay back more than $20 million to patients who were probably eligible for free or reduced-cost care, as well as to forgive more than $137 million in medical debt.
Hospitals are required by Washington’s charity care law to offer qualifying patients either free or reduced-cost care on a sliding scale that takes into account both the patient’s income and the size of the hospital system. Hospitals are required to advise patients of this choice and confirm if they qualify for any savings.
For failing to adequately inform patients of their alternatives, Providence was sued by the Office of the Attorney General, claiming that this “created barriers to affordable care for thousands of the most vulnerable Washingtonians.” The litigation is settled by this arrangement.
At a press conference on Thursday, Ferguson stated, “There is an easy way and a hard way, okay, but these cases make me angry.” “What you went through should not be happening to anyone else. I find it infuriating that hospitals that are aware of the law are disobeying it despite it being there for a reason.
For 65,217 individuals, Providence will forgive $137.2 million in debt, of which $125.8 million has already been settled. The Office of the Attorney General reports that the average write-off for those who are waiting is greater than $900. Refunds typically total $478.
A letter advising qualifying individuals who got care at Providence-affiliated hospitals between 2018 and October 2023 will be sent, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
Evangeline Holloman and Kevin were two of the patients that had problems with the act. They attempted to go on a payment plan after the birth of their child but were eventually placed in collections.
“Luckily we were able to use our entire emergency savings to pay off our bill but we had to restart from ground zero with our kid and having to set aside money again in case anything were to happen,” Evangeline stated. “Having your security ripped out from under you like that is really hard.”
The arrangement, according to Providence CFO Greg Hoffman in a news release, “reaffirms Providence’s commitment to serving the most vulnerable” by encouraging financial assistance availability and streamlining the application process.
“We have already begun providing payments with interest to individuals and are continuing to review our files to ensure we have not missed anyone,” Hoffman stated.
According to Hoffman, by taking these actions, patients will be able to devote more time to their health and less time to worrying about their insurance or medical costs.
In order to prevent Medicaid patients from being mistakenly sent to collections in the future, Providence said that it has reviewed “financial assistance policies, billing-related communications to patients, financial aid applications, and training materials for revenue cycle caregivers” and put in place a new procedure to write off Medicaid account balances.