KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Many Washington State Hospitals Skimp on Required Charity Care

"As the recession has cost more people their jobs and their health insurance, local hospitals have seen more patients show up with no way to pay," reports KUOW, a Washington State public radio station. "Hospitals in Washington are required to provide free care to anyone living below the poverty line, if they ask for it. But some hospitals give more freely than others." 

Leonard Bass, who was homeless five years ago, regularly visits a clinic operated by Haborview Medical Center for diabetes treatment and is one such patient. "Harborview (a county-owned hospital) provides far more health care to the poor and uninsured than any other hospital in the state," and patients like Bass believe the center is their only choice for care.

However, all nonprofit hospitals in the state face the same requirement for providing treatment to people in Bass' financial situations. He is unemployed, uninsured, and living in poverty. But, in the Pudget Sound region, there are only three hospitals that provide more than 2 percent of their care to the poor. Ken Berger, of Charity Navigator, a group that rates nonprofit performance, said "The average nonprofit hospital in many parts of the country, the amount of charity care they (provide) is abysmal, it's like 2.5 percent, and you're considered the best in your class" (Ryan, 7/10).

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