Both Whidbey General and Skagit Valley hospitals offer generous programs for those individuals who are unable to pay for care. Ask the billing offices or departments of finnancial assistance for a charity care application. Whidbey General Hospital finance dept. 360-678-7627 and Skagit Valley Hosptial 360-428-2287.
A series of high profile news articles, Congressional investigations, and class action lawsuits have raised questions about hospital charity care policies and charges to the uninsured. In response, some state hospital associations have adopted policies to encourage their members to ensure low-income patients receive charity care. Washington State is unique in having a charity care law that provides protection to the low-income uninsured. This law, enacted in 1990 with support from the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), has been effective for almost 15 years. Washington is now a national leader in ensuring low income patients are able to receive charity care.
Under Revised Code of Washington 70.170 and Washington Administrative Code 246-453, the charity care law in Washington State requires that:
Hospitals provide charity care to all patients whose family income is below 200 percent of the federal policy standard; and Hospitals write off the full amount of their charges for patients whose income is below 100 percent of the poverty standard and discount charges for patients whose income is between 100 and 200 percent of the standard. Hospitals must develop their own sliding scale for discounts. The law establishes the minimum requirements for charity care, but many hospitals have adopted more generous policies. At least 14 Washington hospitals provide charity care for the full amount of hospital charges for all patients whose gross family income is under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. At least nine hospitals provide discounts for patients with incomes above 200 percent.
WSHA POSITION: Since Washington hospitals follow the state's charity care law, low-income people can be confident that, if they use hospital services, they will not face large hospital bills that jeopardize their financial status. Washington hospitals also support strong state programs to provide timely and appropriate health care to the low-income uninsured, and since 1994 have paid a business and occupation tax to support additional funding for Basic Health and Medicaid children. Because of federal and state requirements and their missions, all hospitals provide emergency care regardless of their patients' ability to pay. In addition to providing direct tax funding for state subsidized care and free emergency care to those who cannot pay, Washington hospitals in 2003 provided $117 million for the cost of treating charity care patients. Washington hospitals do not think any additional legislation is needed to address charity care or billings.
Washington State Hospital Association.