Washington Attorney General: PeaceHealth violated Washington state law in multiple ways

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday that $13.4 million in refunds will be issued to patients who did not receive the financial assistance they were entitled to under Washington Law.

“Thanks to my team’s work, up to $13.4 million will go back to Washington patients,” said AG Bob Ferguson.

This settlement with PeaceHealth impacts more than 15,000 patients in Washington state.

Ferguson alleges PeaceHealth did not screen patients for financial assistance eligibility before attempting to collect payment. He added that PeaceHealth collected payment from patients it knew were likely eligible for charity care without disclosing their eligibility.

The AG’s office said PeaceHealth and many other hospitals use software to identify who may be eligible for financial assistance or charity care.

And, this is what AG’s team said PeaceHealth did with the data.

The AG’s team said PeaceHealth got the information from the tool indicating that patients might be charity-care qualified and they didn’t tell them. They instead, proceeded to bill them for their care.

The AG’s office said the law is clear: hospitals are required to inform patients when charity care is available. And they can’t bill you unless they check to see if you qualify.

It’s important because families making up to 400% of the federal poverty level may be eligible for some type of discount. For a family of four that’s an annual income of $120,000.00.

“The number of Washingtonians who qualify has gone up dramatically. And, so if you don’t think you necessarily qualify, you may be surprised if you qualify for assistance with these benefits,” said Washington AG, Bob Ferguson.

We contacted PeaceHealth to hear what it had to say. General Counsel Tom Carnes sent a statement which reads in part:

“PeaceHealth is committed to identifying every single person who can benefit from charity care. We welcome this opportunity to continue to lead the way in charity care, providing physical and financial healing to the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The most important thing is to make sure you know if you are eligible for discounted or free care before you go to the hospital.

You can see if you are eligible by going to https://affordablehospital.wa.gov/.

For charity care policies for hospitals across the state visit the Washington Hospital Association, here.

For more Charity Care information from the Washington Hospital Association, follow this link.