Providence to repay Medicaid patients who were charged in 'unintended error,' CFO says

Citing an "unintended error", Renton, Wash.-based Providence will reimburse about 760 Medicaid patients whose accounts were sent to debt collectors, the Spokesman-Review reported Oct. 2.  

"We deeply regret that this happened and are reaching out to those who were affected and issuing repayment, including interest," Providence CFO Greg Hoffman told the news outlet in a statement. 

The health system's announcement comes after a Sept. 24 New York Times report detailed Providence's alleged debt collection practices. The system is also facing a lawsuit filed by Washington state's attorney general in February alleging that 14 of its hospitals engaged in aggressive tactics to collect payment, failed to ensure discounts for eligible low-income patients, and steered poor patients to debt collectors. That included not only Medicaid patients but households making less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level who should have been entitled to charity care, according to the report. 

Providence told the news outlet in a statement that it does not engage in "aggressive tactics such as reporting accounts to credit rating agencies and garnishing wages." It also said it includes information on how to apply for financial assistance on every bill. 

A hearing in the state's lawsuit against the health system is scheduled for Oct. 28, according to the report. Providence told the Spokesman-Review the suit is a gross distortion of who and what [Providence] and their caregivers are, and what they do." 

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is also seeking answers to several questions about the system's alleged debt collection practices from system CEO Rod Hochman by Oct. 12. 

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