Court rules Yakima Regional, Toppenish Hospital to pay $4.5 million in Charity Care case

Court rules Yakima Regional, Toppenish Hospital to pay $4.5 million in Charity Care case (MGN Online)

YAKIMA, Wash. – A $4.5 million settlement was reached in the Charity Care case involving Yakima Regional Medical, their parent company, and Toppenish Community Hospital where a judge ruled the hospitals purposefully failed to inform low-income patients of the option of using the state-mandated program to help subsidize their hospital bills.

A news release from Columbia Legal said a class action group of low-income patients may soon see settlements in the case after Yakima County Superior Court approved the agreement in which the hospitals will pay millions.

RELATED: Judge rules Yakima Regional, Toppenish Community violated state Consumer Protection Act

The case stems from the claim that both hospitals had a standard practice of getting payments from low-income patients without informing them of the possibility of Charity Care, which is a state-mandated program that assists low-income patients in paying for hospital care, according to the release.

Yakima County Superior Court Judge Susan Hahn found the hospitals violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act by failing to inform and screen lower-income patients for the free or reduced-cost care Charity Care can provide said the release.

Judge Hahn said in part, “Clearly the actions of [the hospitals] were deceptive acts or practices."

If the court approves the payment in a hearing on Friday, December 9 notices will be sent to those involved in the class-action lawsuit; patients of Yakima Regional and Toppenish Community between October 22, 2007 and September 1, 2014.

The patients will receive forms with instructions to fill out to see if they were eligible for Charity Care at the time of their hospital visit, and if they were, to submit the forms for any payments they made to the hospitals instead of receiving the Charity Care services.

"For years, the existence of charity care was a well-kept secret at YRMC and TCH, as well as other Washington hospitals," said Andrea Schmitt of Columbia Legal Services, which represents the Class. "Hospitals should be in the business of ensuring quality care while following state law, not squeezing money out of the pockets of low-income patients."

This decision comes after Yakima County Court ruled in January of 2016 that the hospitals’ practice of demanding money from low-income patients without screening them for Charity Care violated the Washington Charity Care Act said the release.

The patients involved in the class-action suit may see up to three times the money they paid out depending on the number of claims submitted. For more information on the case and submitting a claim in the suit visit here.

Columbia Legal Services said the issues is not unique to the area – they said in June they and another law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Northwest Hospital in Seattle for failing to meet it’s Charity Care guidelines.

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