Providence's collection agencies broke the law while collecting medical debts, Washington AG says

Two collection agencies have been added to the Washington attorney general's lawsuit against 14 Providence-affiliated hospitals. 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleges Harris & Harris and Optimum Outcomes failed to notify tens of thousands of patients of the availability of charity care discounts before "aggressively collecting on their medical debt, according to an Aug. 9 news release from his office. 

The collection agencies also failed to inform patients of their right to request certain information about their debt, according to the news release. 

The state's charity care laws apply to both insured and uninsured patients and requires all hospitals to forgive all or some of the out-of-pocket costs of essential healthcare for patients who qualify, according to the news release.  

The underlying consumer protection lawsuit stems from Providence's alleged charity care and collections practices that impacted tens of thousands of patients and hundreds of millions of dollars in medical debt, according to the news release. 

A Providence spokesperson told Becker's the health system believes the charges against it are "inaccurate and unfair."

"As the largest provider of charity care in the state of Washington, the Providence family of organizations provided $75.5 million in free and discounted care statewide in 2021 alone," the spokesperson said in an email. "We also absorbed $471 million in uncompensated Medicaid costs last year in Washington state. Our practices comply with, and in many instances exceed, the requirements of Washington’s Charity Care Act."

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