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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Washington State Attorney General wins two suits under medical billing practices

State Issues Medical Debt FDCPA Washington State Attorney General

State Issues

On February 1, the Attorney General from Washington State successfully sued a large healthcare group to pay over $158 million for settlement of funds under the state’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The Washington AG stated that the healthcare group violated state law which requires hospital management to notify patients about financial assistance and to screen them for eligibility before trying to collect payment. The healthcare group has been ordered to pay $20.6 million in patient refunds and will forgive $137.2 million in medical debts; it will also pay $4.5 million to cover the attorney general’s costs. Among others, the consent decree includes several injunctions to be engaged in or refrained from for five years, including maintaining charity care policies, and not collecting payment for medical services unless presented with either of two stated stipulations. Lastly, the consent decree states that if the healthcare group violates a condition, it would have to pay up to $125,000 per violation. The defendants do not admit the allegations of the complaints filed in the first lawsuit from February 2022. 

Similarly, on February 2 the Washington AG successfully entered into a motion for partial summary judgment against a medical debt collection agency working within the healthcare group for sending 82,729 debt collection notices under the Collection Agency Act (CAA). The court agreed with the AG’s finding that the agency’s debt collection notices failed to make the required disclosures under the CAA. Damages have not yet been awarded.