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Northwest Hospital sued over Charity Care screenings, settlement reached

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Jesse Jones continues his mission to wipe out medical debt across Western Washington.

Northwest Hospital, part of the University of Washington medical system, was sued for sending patients to collections and not screening them to see if they qualified for Charity Care.   Now, a settlement has been reached.  The settlement means patients can apply for Charity Care now for service they received almost eight years ago.

Adam Berger filed the class action suit on behalf of two patients, claiming Northwest Hospital was sending uninsured and underinsured patients to collections without first screening them for Charity Care.

Now a settlement has been reached that has far reaching implications.

“The hospital is going to provide enhanced written information to all emergency depart patients, giving them guidelines who is eligible for financial assistance,” Berger explained.

If you received emergency room care at Northwest Hospital between June 21, 2010 and July 31, 2017, and you were billed without being screened for Charity Care, you may no longer be responsible for any remaining hospital bills and can receive reimbursement for bills you’ve paid.

“People assume if they are making a reasonable wage, they may not be eligible for financial aid,” Berger said.

Here’s the catch: At the time of service, your income had to have been at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.  300% for a family of four under current guidelines is a yearly income of $50,200.

Jesse has reported on Charity Care, and those who have benefited from it, in the past.  Shaliese Taylor of Seattle thought DSHS was covering her hospital bills for the birth of her child.  Taylor said, due to a mix up, the costs were not covered.  Years later, Taylor’s paychecks were garnished.

“I have three kids at this point,” Taylor explained.  “How am I supposed to figure out to work with 25 percent of my check being taken away from me,”

But Taylor qualified for Charity Care. So, she applied, was approved, and then she got a $2,000 refund check from the collection agency.

Bottom line: Charity care only works — if you use it.

UW Medicine Northwest Hospital sent us a statement, saying the following:

“An allegation was made in June 2010 that Northwest Hospital did not offer screenings to patients who may have been eligible for charity care under Washington State law.  While Northwest Hospital refuted the allegations, the hospital  worked closely with the plaintiffs’ legal representative to find resolution that includes enhancing charity care screening procedures so that all patients who may be eligible are given every opportunity to apply.”

You can learn more about the settlement and how to apply for Charity Care here.

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