Medical debt lawsuit against Providence now includes collection agencies

Medical debt lawsuit against Providence now includes collection agencies

The agencies violated the Collection Agencies Act and the Consumer Protection Act, according to the attorney general.

Earlier this month, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he had expanded his underlying consumer protection lawsuit against 14 Providence-affiliated hospitals earlier in the year to include two collection agencies. .

Ferguson accused Harris & Harris and Optimum Outcomes, which worked for the five Swedish hospitals and nine Providence-affiliated medical facilities named in the original lawsuit, of failing to notify about 54,000 patient accounts about available charitable care.

“Despite its mission, for years Providence has engaged in unfair and deceptive practices that prevent many of the most vulnerable members of the communities it claims to serve from accessing free and discounted charitable care,” said the amended lawsuit submitted by Ferguson.

According to the Attorney General, the two collection agencies are accused of violating the Collection Agencies Act and the Consumer Protection Act. By law, collection agencies must include written notice of any eligibility a patient may have for charitable care when first notified of collection. The amended lawsuit also claims that collection agencies failed to inform patients of their rights to request certain information about their debt, which is against the law. Ferguson accuses the 14 hospitals and two collection agencies of collecting more than $470 million in medical debt while violating the law.

In an Aug. 9 press release, Ferguson said he would fight to make sure Washington state’s charitable law. “Families live in fear that an unexpected medical emergency could lead to crippling medical debt,” Ferguson said. “Collection agencies cannot mislead Washingtonians about their legal right to access medical financial assistance.”

In a statement from a spokesperson for Providence, the organization said the charges were inaccurate and unjust.

“Charitable care and financial assistance are central to our mission as a nonprofit organization. As the largest charitable care provider in Washington State, the Providence family of organizations provided $75.5 million in free and discounted care statewide in 2021 alone,” said the spokesperson in an email. “We also absorbed $471 million in uncompensated Medicaid costs last year in Washington State. Our practices meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements of Washington’s Charity Care Act. In fact, our Charitable care eligibility threshold is at least twice as generous as Washington State standards.

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