Class-action lawsuit accuses hospital of violating charity care law

by: Essex Porter Updated:


SEATTLE - Seattle's Northwest Hospital has been hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming it turns patients over to collection agencies too quickly. 

The suit says those patients should be screened to determine whether they qualify for charity care.

The lawyers at Columbia Legal Services say this lawsuit has implications statewide, because 30 percent of the state's population may qualify for charity care.
Taxi driver Kamal Amireh told us he suffered from severe vertigo three years ago, so he went to the emergency room at Northwest Hospital.
His lawsuit alleges the hospital sent his $3,500 bill to a collection agency before screening him to see if he qualified for a charity care discount.
“They have been very tough for me, like, not cooperative, you know. They are not cooperative," Amireh said.
“The collection agency proceeded to garnish his bank account and take wages that he really needed to provide for the basic necessities of life for his family,” said lawyer Adam Berger.
The class-action lawsuit seeks to cover every potential charity care patient in the Northwest Hospital service area.
According to the complaint, that's roughly 134,000 people.
In a statement, Northwest Hospital told KIRO 7 it didn't know about the allegations until the lawsuit was announced this morning and that it is investigating.
The statement says the hospital provided more than $7.3 million in charity care in its last fiscal year.

[Follow KIRO 7 News on Facebook]