WSHA files lawsuit to preserve access to care for Washington patients

October 18, 2023

WSHA filed a legal challenge to the state Department of Health’s new interpretation of the state’s charity care law this week.

Washington hospitals provide charity care to those with financial need who have an emergency regardless of residence or immigration status. The state has long endorsed hospital policies that limit non-emergency charity care to residents of Washington State or geographies that correspond to the hospital’s service area.

On Sept. 18 the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a statement changing its 30-plus-year interpretation of the state’s charity care law. DOH will now require all hospitals to provide charity care for any service to anyone in the world who seeks it. Washington hospitals are gravely concerned the new approach will make it harder for Washingtonians to get timely access to the health care they need.

Many hospitals in Washington provide care to patients from other areas when the services they need are not available where they live. For example, hospitals provide trauma services, pediatric specialty services and organ transplants to people from outside Washington State. The new interpretation removes the hospital’s ability to discern what the organization can absorb while still providing care to local patients and would make the state a medical tourism destination.

WSHA is seeking an opinion from the Thurston County Superior Court before DOH imposed Jan. 16, 2024, deadline for hospitals to change their charity care policies.

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Taya Briley

Executive Vice President and General Counsel



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