Press Conference: Patients File Class Action Lawsuit Against Seattle Hospital over Charity Care Access

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Tuesday, June 21, patient advocates will hold a press conference to announce a class action lawsuit they are filing against a Seattle hospital for failing to meet its responsibility to screen patients for Charity Care. The Washington State Charity Care Act (CCA) requires that all hospitals in the state provide Charity Care in order to ensure access to health care for low-income residents. However, low-income uninsured and underinsured emergency room patients have been consistently denied access to Charity Care at the hospital, as well as other hospitals across Washington State. Instead, the hospital sends the medical bills to collections and many patients have their wages garnished, often turning patients into debtors. (En Español)

The plaintiffs, both former emergency treatment patients, claim that the Seattle hospital failed to screen them to determine their eligibility for Charity Care before demanding payment and before sending them to collections. At the press conference, one of the plaintiffs will explain that had he been affirmatively screened, he would have been deemed eligible both under the CCA and the hospital’s own Charity Care policy. Instead, he received notice of a collections lawsuit. He then immediately went to the hospital requesting Charity Care, only to be inaccurately told that he could not make such a request once a collections suit was filed.

These plaintiffs seek to represent thousands of other patients who visited this hospital and were not screened to determine their eligibility for Charity Care. More broadly, the issues presented in this case affect the rights of the several million uninsured and underinsured Washingtonians who may be eligible for Charity Care based on their low income and should be screened to determine their eligibility when they receive hospital care.

WHAT:            Press Conference: Fair Access to Hospital Care

WHEN:            9:30am, Tuesday, June 21, 2016

WHO:              Columbia Legal Services and Schroeter Goldmark & Bender, co-counsel
One of the class action plaintiffs
Ally organizations who work with impacted communities, including Northwest Justice Project, Northwest Health Law Advocates, Casa Latina, NAACP, El Centro de la Raza, and Washington CAN!

WHERE:           Columbia Legal Services, 101 Yesler Way, Suite 300, Seattle 98104

STREAMING:   The press conference will be available online through a live video stream using the following link: http://bit.ly/Charity-Care-Presser

The class action complaint will be filed on June 21 and available at the press conference and on our website. In addition to discussing this case at the press conference, Columbia Legal Services attorneys will underscore the barriers to Charity Care and scope of the problem in Washington State, plus launch a public education campaign to inform future patients and the broader public about Charity Care. Ally organizations will discuss the impact of medical debt on families and how one unplanned health emergency can lead to a devastating cycle of debt.