Lawsuit Accuses HMA Hospitals of Avoiding Charity Care

A recently-filed lawsuit alleges Yakima (Wash.) Regional Medical Center and Toppenish (Wash.) Community Hospital, both owned by Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates, have violated the state's Charity Care Act and Washington Consumer Protection Act by dissuading low-income patients from visiting the hospitals, according to a report in the Yakima Herald.

The suit cites a "severe imbalance" in the amount of charity care delivered in the region, as nearby Yakima (Wash.) Valley Memorial Hospital took on 28,503 charity cases in 2011, while Yakima Regional reported 385, according to the report.

The class action suit was filed by a low-income patient who was allegedly told by a Yakima Regional employee she needed to put down a $5,000 deposit for a hysterectomy surgery, according to the report. The patient's family was not informed they may qualify for charity care, and although the deposit was dropped to $1,000 and the rest of the bill eventually forgiven, the deposit was not returned.

The suit seeks to force Health Management Associates to assume its charity care responsibilities in the region, and bar the hospitals from requiring low-income patients to pay a deposit before receiving care, according to the report.

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