Hospital refunds $13.4M in hospital bills charges to low-income patients

Nov 20, 2023, 4:49 PM

hospital refund low-income...

PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Riverbend, Oregon. (Photo from Flickr @RickObst)

(Photo from Flickr @RickObst)

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that thousands of low-income hospital patients will get a refund for overcharged hospital bills.

The hospital chain PeaceHealth will return more than $13 million to some 15,000 patients after settling a lawsuit alleging that they violated laws requiring them to notify patients who qualified for financial assistance with their hospital bills.

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Under Washington state’s Charity Care law, households making at or below 400% of the federal poverty level can get discounts or even free hospital care. A full list of qualifications for discounts on hospital expenses can be found here.

The Attorney General’s investigation found that the hospitals would screen patients for financial assistance eligibility but often failed to notify patients of the discounts.

PeaceHealth operates hospitals in Bellingham, Friday Harbor, Longview, Sedro-Woolley and Vancouver. This refund impacts patients at all five hospitals.

“I appreciate PeaceHealth’s cooperation in reaching this resolution that fully refunds Washingtonians for millions of dollars in medical payments, plus interest, without the need for litigation,” Ferguson said. “Washington’s hospital financial assistance law helps working families avoid crushing medical debt by making help available to those who qualify.”

PeaceHealth will be required to pay $4.2 million in refunds to about 4,500 patients and will start the process to possibly refund an additional 11,000 patients an additional $9.2 million. They will also be paying $2 million to the Attorney General’s office to pay for the investigation.

More on hospitals in WA: Providence nurses in Everett are on strike; Hospital says patients will be safe

Anyone who feels they are not receiving the financial assistance on their hospital bill they are entitled to can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

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Hospital refunds $13.4M in hospital bills charges to low-income patients