Providence reaches agreement with Washington State on charity care

Providence has reached an agreement with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office regarding charity care practices at our family of organizations.

This agreement represents the culmination of efforts Providence has undertaken to ensure that our patients are fully informed of the financial assistance available to them. Additionally, we are making sure that any patients who were impacted by billing errors or past practices receive payments they are owed, if they haven't already.

“Serving those in need, regardless of their ability to pay, is at the very heart of Providence’s Mission and values,” said Greg Hoffman, Providence CFO. “Today’s agreement reaffirms our commitment to serving those who are most vulnerable by taking steps to proactively promote the availability of financial assistance and simplify the application process. We have already begun providing payments with interest to individuals and are continuing to review our files to ensure we have not missed anyone. Going forward, these steps will help ensure all patients can spend more time focusing on their health and less time worrying about medical bills or insurance coverage.”

Today’s settlement includes several important actions:

  • Payment of $20.6 million (includes interest) to identified patients who may have qualified for charity care or financial assistance at the time of service. Any outstanding balances for these individuals will be written off.
  • Payment of $4.5 million to the Washington State Attorney General’s office.
  • Forgiveness of $137.2 million in medical debt to Washingtonians consistent with our commitment to easing the way for our patients and reducing the burden of medical debt.
  • A streamlined process to provide all patients with information about financial assistance and how to apply using simple language aligned to our organizational values.

In recent years, Providence has undertaken a systemwide review of our financial assistance policies, billing-related communications to patients, financial aid applications, and training materials for revenue cycle caregivers. In addition, we have implemented new processes to write off the balances of Medicaid accounts and we have taken steps to prevent Medicaid patients from being incorrectly sent to collections in the future. 

“Charity care and financial assistance are vital resources for patients who cannot afford health care,” Hoffman said. “Providence is committed to providing support to those who need it most, and we will continually evaluate our efforts and make sure they fully meet the needs of those we serve.”

Providence recognizes the tough challenges many members of our community face that result in them not completing the financial assistance application process and we are also making improvements to our processes to encourage more individuals to apply for such assistance, which we are happy to offer.

In 2022, Providence and its family of organizations provided $2.1 billion in community benefit, covering free or reduced-cost care (charity care), investments in health services, education and community health. This commitment represents our largest investment to date – a $600 million increase since 2019.

As the largest provider of charity care in the state of Washington, our family of organizations – which includes Providence, Swedish and Kadlec – delivered $839 million in community benefit, including $117 million in free and discounted care and $575 million in the unpaid cost of Medicaid, statewide in 2022 alone.

Our financial assistance practices comply with, and in many instances exceed, the requirements of Washington’s Charity Care Act. In fact, our threshold for charity care eligibility is more generous than Washington state standards. 

We encourage any patient in need of financial assistance to learn more about our charity care program by visiting www.providence.org/financialhelp.

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