New Washington law grants access to free healthcare

New Washington Law Grants Access To Free Healthcare

Alastair Grant – staff, AP

OLYMPIA, Wash. —New legislation begins Friday, granting millions of people living in Washington access to free healthcare.  

The legislation was requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson, and requires hospitals to provide more financial assistance to those in need. According to a press release from Ferguson’s office, about two-thirds of bankruptcy claims nationwide are linked to medical issues, and “more than half of collection items on credit reports are for medical debts.” 

And COVID-19 didn’t help. Reports from Uninsured Washington illustrate that from 2019 to May 2020, the number of uninsured people doubled from 6.2% to 12.6%. Due to statewide stay-at-home orders, many lost their sources of income, and/or employer-based health insurance. The new law aims to increase eligibility for full write-offs of out-of-pocket hospital costs for those who may need it.  

“This is a landmark achievement for affordable health care,” Ferguson said. “Too many Washingtonians are just one hospital bill away from financial crisis. Our new law moves us away from a system where a single mom working two minimum wage jobs didn’t qualify for any help with her hospital bills, to something that offers help to about half the people in Washington.” 

All Washingtonians within 300%  to 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for financial assistance for the vast majority of Washington hospital beds. There will be two levels of financial assistance available for individuals in need, one for large health care systems and another for smaller, independent hospitals.  

Hospitals in health systems that own or operate more than three hospitals —- including Children’s, Overlake, Evergreen Kirkland, and Legacy Salmon —- are considered “tier 1.” There are approximately 50 hospitals in this tier, along with access to 79.2% of licensed beds. Free coverage is offered for those within 300% of the poverty line, 75% coverage for those within 301 to 350%, and a 50% discount for those between 351% and 400% of the poverty level for these hospitals.  

There are 55 hospitals in tier 2 with access to 20.8% hospital beds. For this tier, there is free coverage available for those who fall in 200% of the federal poverty level, and a 75% discount for those within 250% of the poverty line.  

To find out if you qualify at your local hospital, click here.  

READ: Here are four new Washington laws taking effect in 2020