VANCOUVER, Wash. – PeaceHealth has announced that it reached an agreement with the Attorney General of Washington regarding charity care.
For years, PeaceHealth cooperated with an investigation by the Attorney General, providing tens of thousands of documents and supplying evidence that the not-for-profit health system did everything required by law — and more — to inform its patients about the availability of financial assistance.
“PeaceHealth is committed to identifying every single person who can benefit from charity care,” said PeaceHealth general counsel Tom Karnes. “We welcome this opportunity to continue to lead the way in charity care, providing physical and financial healing to the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Since 2018, PeaceHealth has awarded $258M in charity care to 66,338 patients — including $83M to 25,000 patients without income verification. Under the settlement agreement, PeaceHealth will pay an additional roughly $4M — less than 1.6% of its charity care expenditure since 2018 — to reimburse approximately 4,000 patients who did not apply for assistance or respond to outreach.
PeaceHealth's requirements for receiving free or discounted care are 400% of the federal poverty level. It supported a 2020 change to Washington state law and similar legislation in Oregon, making more patients eligible for assistance by applying the generous standard PeaceHealth had already been meeting voluntarily. When people exceed eligibility requirements but still struggle to pay, PeaceHealth continues to offer financial assistance.
“PeaceHealth's Mission is healing, not profit. Our programs have a demonstrated record of providing industry-leading free or discounted care to those in need — not maximizing collections,” chief financial and growth officer Darrin Montalvo said. “Regardless of their financial circumstances, each patient who comes to us seeking care is experiencing a vulnerable moment in their life and needs healing. We hold each healing opportunity as sacred, so our commitment to financial healing closely aligns with our Mission.”
PeaceHealth is committed to ensuring all patients get the care they need, whether or not they can pay. Five years ago, PeaceHealth proactively made significant changes to its financial assistance program to expand eligibility, enhance education, and redesign statements to make them easier to understand. PeaceHealth will now further screen for financial assistance eligibility.
In addition to the roughly $4M in direct reimbursements to identified patients, PeaceHealth will enhance how it screens patients for financial assistance for hospital-based services by inquiring upon registration about the patient's household income and size; regardless of the answer, PeaceHealth will continue to provide all patients with information about financial assistance and how to apply throughout their healthcare journey. It will also notify any additional potentially eligible patients to seek similar reimbursement for past payments and pay $2M in costs and attorney fees.
Karnes added, “Rather than expending time and resources on litigation, we entered into an agreement so that we can continue with our healing Mission and commitment to health justice.”
Dr. Erica Torres, PeaceHealth System Vice President of Mission Integration, provided an overview of the agreement and speaks to PeaceHealth's demonstrated record of providing charity care:
About PeaceHealth: PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a not-for-profit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, more than 3,000 clinicians, more than 160 clinics and 9 medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest. In 1890, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded what has become PeaceHealth. The Sisters shared expertise and transferred wisdom from one medical center to another, always finding the best way to serve the unmet need for healthcare in their communities. Today, PeaceHealth is the legacy of the founding Sisters and continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its Mission. Visit us online at peacehealth.org.