According to the 2023 annual report from the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) the state's hospitals combined lost about $1.74 billion last year.

New changes to state's medical charity law could add to that.

Last fall the WSHA filed a lawsuit over changes made to the state's medical charity laws. The WSHA challenged the Department of Health's interpretation and wording of the rule. According to the WSHA:

"On September 18 the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a statement changing its 30 plus-year interpretation of the state’s charity care law. The department will now require all hospitals to change their policies to provide charity care for any service to anyone in the world who seeks it."

According to KOMO TV, WSHA Chief Financial Officer Eric Lewis said now the law allows people from anywhere in the world to come here and obtain medical care, sometimes expensive procedures. If they do not have insurance, the medical provider and hospital are left to take care of the expenses.

A revised version of what's called the Safety Net Assessment Program (which began in 2011) was passed by the legislature this year. It uses money from a tax on hospitals plus matching Federal and Medicare funding to help hospitals offset these losses.

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But officials say that funding has not started to hit the hospitals yet. The WSHA says 85 percent of the state's hospitals are losing money to varying degrees. If this continues WSHA officials say many or most of them will have to start cutting back on services.


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