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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 1, 2009 at 4:35 PM

Charity health care

Take it to the Legislature

Editor, The Times:

As an advocate for patients without insurance at a hospital, I was disappointed with your one-sided story about charity care [“No money, no insurance, no mercy,” Times, page one, Dec. 30].

Every day, I see patients without insurance and every day, I see people approved for hundreds and thousands of dollars in charity care. The hospitals pay big money for private companies like the one I work for to screen and help patients apply for Medicaid and Social Security disability at no cost to the patients.

You are giving hospitals a bad rap.

While I agree that there are many people without insurance who suffer financially because of large hospital bills, there are 10 times that many who get financial assistance from hospitals and who are assisted with applying for state and federal benefits to help them get some sort of insurance.

As a former volunteer at Evergreen Hospital, I have seen, firsthand, hundreds of people approved for charity care.

As a former employee for the eligibility vendor for Harrison Hospital, I have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of patients without insurance get approved for 100 percent charity care. The hospital I work for now has us complete a financial-aid application for every single person without insurance.

The hospitals don’t want their patients to suffer financially and work hard to assist patients in getting long-term benefits if they qualify. We work closely with DSHS [Department of Social and Health Services] Medicaid programs to screen everyone for eligibility to see if we can help them find a longer-term solution to their problem of having no insurance.

The problem isn’t with the hospitals; it is with the system.

Washington state Medicaid programs help the aged, blind, parenting children, children and the disabled. There are very few programs for people ages 19 to 64 who are able to work. There used to be a program that would help anyone who had a medical emergency in Washington state — now that program only applies to illegal aliens.

An illegal immigrant can get their hospital bill covered by Medicaid in an emergency situation, but a working, taxpaying citizen who comes in with the same medical emergency cannot. I suggest you stop picking on the hospitals that provide quality medical care for free and start picking on the Washington state legislative system, which has the power to fix the problem.

— Amy Bond, Auburn

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