CHS absorbs $47M of patient debts in settlement

Franklin Tenn.-based Community Health Systems will pay $22 million and absorb $47.5 million of patient debts to settle a lawsuit filed in 2017 by Spokane, Wash.-based Empire Health Foundation, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Empire Health Foundation, a nonprofit entity, alleged CHS failed to provide obligatory levels of charity care at two Washington hospitals it acquired from Empire Health Services in 2008. The two hospitals — Deaconess Hospital in Spokane and Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley — are now owned by Tacoma, Wash.-based MultiCare Health System.

Empire Health Foundation alleged that when CHS acquired Deaconess Hospital and Valley Hospital it agreed to provide charity care at levels at least equal to the average provided by hospitals in Eastern Washington. The foundation claimed CHS' charity care spending fell below the levels promised and that CHS inflated the value of the charity care it did provide.

Though CHS continues to deny the allegations, the company reached a settlement with Empire in October. CHS agreed to forgive up to $50 million in debt for patients who received care at the two Washington hospitals between Nov. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2017.

CHS identified roughly 17,000 former patients who are eligible for debt relief, and a total of $47.5 million in debt is being forgiven, a CHS spokesperson told The Spokesman-Review.

In addition to absorbing the patient debt, CHS agreed to pay $20 million to Empire's political lobbying arm and pay $2 million for Empire's legal expenses, according to the report.

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