AG Ferguson files lawsuit against Swedish for failing to make charity care accessible to thousands

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Swedish Edmonds is named in Attorney General's lawsuit 
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a consumer protection lawsuit against five Swedish hospitals and nine Providence-affiliated facilities for failing to ensure that eligible low-income Washingtonians receive the discounts to which they are legally entitled, and aggressively collecting money from charity care eligible low-income Washingtonians.

Ferguson will also file a motion for preliminary injunction unless the hospitals agree to stop their conduct while the case is ongoing.

Washington’s charity care law protects low-income Washingtonians from out-of-pocket hospital costs. The protections apply to both insured and uninsured patients.

The hospitals are located around the state, from Seattle to Spokane, Walla Walla to Everett. In their communities, many of the hospitals are either the largest, or the only hospital in their area. Swedish’s location at First Hill is the largest hospital in the state with over 800 beds. Together, these hospitals reported more than $18 billion in patient service revenues in 2020.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, asserts that these hospitals committed thousands of Consumer Protection Act violations, including:
  • Training employees to aggressively collect payment without regard for a patient’s eligibility for financial assistance, instructing them to use a specific script when communicating with patients that gives patients the impression that they are expected to pay for their care. Providence instructed employees: “don’t accept the first no”;
  • Failing to notify patients they were eligible for charity care financial assistance when the providers determined they qualified for assistance;
  • And sending more than 54,000 patient accounts to debt collection, despite knowing the patients were eligible for financial assistance. These 54,000 patient accounts totaled more than $70 million. Under Washington’s current charity care law, those patients were eligible for discounts on their bills. 
Moreover, under its own charity care policies that Providence promoted, these patients should have been eligible for full write-offs of their medical debt.The lawsuit seeks restitution in the form of full write-off of medical debts, and refunds, plus interest, for patients who did not receive financial assistance. 

In addition to the $70 million in debt relief and refunds, Ferguson is also seeking millions of dollars in civil penalties. The total number of Consumer Protection Act violations will be determined as the case progresses.

If you paid for medical services or are in collections for a medical bill from a Providence or Swedish hospital or Kadlec Regional Medical Center, and believe you may be eligible for charity care, contact Attorney General’s Office Investigator Bau Vang at 206-516-2989 or by email at bau.vang@atg.wa.gov

More information here



1 comments:

Anonymous,  February 26, 2022 at 1:55 PM  

Its very dangerous when one organization controls so much of anything - health care, banks, insurance ....for one would prefer to pay my $ for health care to an organization that is not beholden to a religious doctrine in which I don't believe. And isn't it ironic that "the sisters of providence" whose mission was to care for the downtrodden now squeezes every penny out of them?

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