The complaint alleges that the hospital system failed to notify eligible patients of free or reduced-cost treatment options through the Charity Care Act.
EVERETT, Wash. — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said a hearing in a lawsuit alleging a Providence hospital used “unfair and deceptive” medical billing practices against low-income patients was set for Jan. 27. Said it was scheduled for Friday.
Providence denies the allegations, saying it “holds all the highest standards and does not tolerate billing and collection practices that take advantage of the patients we serve, especially those who are vulnerable.”
Ferguson plans to file a lawsuit in 2022 and, at an upcoming hearing, allege that 36,000 patients entitled to charity care were wrongfully sent to debt collectors.
“Washington state law makes clear that many Washington citizens are entitled to what is called charity care, or reduced health care costs,” Ferguson said. and sent literally tens of thousands of Washingtonians to send debt collectors to collect debts they never should have borrowed.”
When Everett’s Alexandra Nyfors faced two weeks of hospitalization at a Providence-run facility due to an infection, renal failure and related problems, the medical care itself was excellent, but the billing process posed difficulties afterward. .
“The care I received was top notch, especially the nurses. And I’m better. I wasn’t feeling well, but I’m fine enough to go home and live my life.” “The billing method is terrible. They didn’t pay any attention to anything other than ‘give us money.'”
Nyfors said her initial hospital bill was more than $86,000, but after her premiums were reduced to about $2,000, she still couldn’t afford it with her fixed income. Although she was able to secure an installment plan, she says she was never told she was eligible for free or discounted care under the state’s Charity Care Act. Instead, she found a way to pay monthly. rice field. She says she saved on utility bills to pay her bills.
“I was cold because I didn’t buy a lot of groceries. I wasn’t eating rationally because that’s what you buy when you don’t have money,” Nyfors said.
Nyfors learned that she could be covered under the Charity Care Act through media reports about the Attorney General’s lawsuit. She contacted a reporter for the Everett Herald who reported on her case, after which Providence contacted her with information about her CCA and said she was reimbursed. Still, she has agreed to participate in litigation on the issue, and would like to see hospital personnel working with patients to better inform patients about CCA and to create bills, she said. .
“What needs to change is making sure that patients come in to find out what their income is and if they qualify for charity care, they get it.” It seems to me that it is a part of patient care, a part of care that has been completely removed by the hospital system.”
The attorney general’s lawsuit seeks restitution, damages, and corporate reform.
“We know health care debt is a major contributor to homelessness and economic instability, and an entity of this size and sophistication in Providence has ignored this law and killed 36,000 Washington citizens. I know the idea that it should have been sent to debt collectors and not sent to debt collectors and that’s why we have my office so I can stand up for the people of Washington.
Here is the full statement from a Providence spokesperson:
“Providence is driven by the belief that health is a human right and remains focused on ensuring that economic hardship does not impede access to care and healing processes. and do not tolerate billing or collection practices for the patients we serve, especially those who are vulnerable.
Providence is the largest charitable health care provider in Washington state, according to the Washington State Department of Health. In 2021, statewide, he gave away $75 million at free or discounted rates, giving communities a total of $663 million. Our charity care policies meet and often exceed federal and state laws.
Today’s NYT Daily discussion is a summary of a New York Times article from last October. We don’t believe our podcasts and articles are an accurate reflection of who we are as an organization. That said, we take these allegations very seriously and are continually working to improve charity care to ensure patients receive the financial assistance they need.”