Settlement erases medical debt for thousands of patients at two Spokane hospitals

Thousands of former patients at Spokane’s Deaconess and Valley hospitals will have medical debts erased as part of a major legal settlement with a struggling for-profit hospital chain.

Tennessee-based Community Health Systems will forgive up to $50 million in debt for people who received treatment at the hospitals from November 1st 2008 to June 30th 2017, when the company owned the facilities.

The settlement comes more than two years after the Empire Health Foundation sued CHS, alleging the company failed to provide levels of charity-free care for low-income patients that it had promised when buying the hospitals. The foundation formed when the former Empire Health Services sold the hospitals to CHS in 2008.

The settlement is expected to affect between 5,000 and 15,000 people who could not afford their health care or lacked insurance. CHS said it was working to determine the precise number as some patients made multiple visits to the hospitals during the 10-year period. The debt relief is automatic.

Those affected should receive notices in the mail by November 30th and will not need to take any action to discharge their debts.

Deaconess and Valley are now owned by MultiCare Health System, a Tacoma-based nonprofit that was not involved in the litigation. (Spokesman-Review)

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