Washington AG Settles over Health System’s Alleged Deception of Low-Income Patients

  • Washington AG Bob Ferguson settled with Providence Health & Services Washington and affiliated entities to resolve allegations the nonprofit health system violated state consumer protection law by deceiving low-income patients into paying for hospital services that they were legally entitled to receive for free.
  • According to the complaint, Providence has a legal obligation under the state’s Charity Care Act to screen patients to determine if they are eligible for free or reduced-cost care. Providence allegedly failed to meet this obligation, and instead used unfair and deceptive practices to obscure the availability of charity care and shift the burden of identifying eligibility onto patients. AG Ferguson alleges that, as a result, many low-income patients paid bills that were legally entitled to forgiveness, and some bills were sent to debt collectors, compounding financial difficulties for low-income patients.
  • Under the terms of the settlement, Providence must pay $20.6 million in direct refunds, forgive $11.4 million in outstanding debt, and pay the state $4.5 million. Providence also agrees to injunctive relief requiring it to maintain charity care policies and practices consistent with state law.