Charity Care

Washington Health Insurance

One of the most amazing and alarming statistics in the country is the fact that nearly 40% of the uninsured (and actually underinsured) are eligible for some kind of government health insurance or assistance.  For instance, most Washington state residents don’t know that if you receive health care services in the hospital in the state of Washington, you could be eligible for free or reduced-cost care?

  • Under Washington State law, every hospital must have a Charity Care policy, also known as a financial assistance policy.
  • If you receive care in the hospital and are low income, you may be eligible for free, reduced-cost care, or discounts.
    • Those with incomes less than 100% FPL (approximately $20,000 for a family of four) receive free care.
    • Those with incomes between 100% and 200% FPL (approximately $20,000 to $40,000 for a family of four) receive discounted care.
    • The hospital charity care policy may count your assets toward coverage costs.
    • Some services you receive in the hospital are not eligible for charity care, for example if they are provided by an outside medical group such as a radiologist, surgical practice, or laboratory.
    • For more information on 2007 FPL guidelines go to
  • Hospitals throughout the state pledged in 2006 to go beyond Washington’s charity care requirements.
    • Uninsured patients with incomes between 100% and 200% FPL will be charged no more than the estimated cost of their care.
    • Uninsured patients with incomes up to 300% FPL (approximately $60,000 for a family of four) pay no more than someone with insurance would pay.
    • Increased accessibility to information about financial assistance (e.g., written notice and posted signs). See the brochure at (pdf)

The hospital must give you information about Charity Care when they ask you whether you have insurance or health coverage

  • Be sure to fill out and return the Charity Care application to be considered for Charity Care.
  • You can apply for Charity Care at any time.

The hospital may not bill you or send your bill to a collection agency before seeing whether you are eligible for Charity Care.If your Charity Care application is approved but you already began to pay your bill—the hospital must return the portion that is covered by Charity Care.
You must be informed by the hospital about the services you receive that are not covered by Charity Care. You will be responsible for paying for those services.

More information on charity care is available on the Washington Law Help website.
If you need legal assistance with a hospital bill and have limited income, contact Northwest Justice Project- CLEAR for legal assistance: 1-888-201-1014.
This is general information and does not substitute for legal advice.  It is current as of August 2007.