Washington’s attorney general has filed suit against St. Joseph Medical Center, charging that the hospital has illegally withheld “charity care” from tens of thousands of low-income Tacoma-area residents for years. Specifically, AG Bob Ferguson says St. Joseph has erected “obstacles” that inhibit providing care to patients who may have trouble affording it. State laws in Washington require hospitals to verify the income of prospective charity patients, but allegedly St. Joseph staff were directed to ask for multiple income documents, rather than the one required by law. In addition, the suit contends that St. Joseph told employees not to volunteer information about the charity-care program—another violation of the law. Besides the main complaint that such practices would deny care illegally, there’s the question of whether St. Joseph gained an unfair competitive advantage over urgent care centers, among other settings, if in fact the charges are true. Charity hospitals often charge the same (or higher) rates as other hospitals or urgent care centers, but get tax breaks—thus allowing them to run on a higher profit margin.
Washington Suit Alleges Obstacles to ‘Charity Care’ by Hospital