Hospital Chain Will Return Millions to Western Washington Patients

November 29, 2023 at 6:33 p.m.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced in November that the hospital chain PeaceHealth is refunding up to $13.4 million to more than 15,000 low-income patients at its five western Washington hospitals. PeaceHealth operates hospitals in Bellingham, Friday Harbor, Longview, Sedro-Woolley and Vancouver.

An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office found that PeaceHealth billed thousands of low-income patients who likely qualified for financial assistance without informing them of their eligibility.

“I appreciate PeaceHealth’s cooperation in reaching this resolution that fully refunds Washingtonians for millions of dollars in medical payments, plus interest, without the need for litigation,” Ferguson said.

 “Washington’s hospital financial assistance law helps working families avoid crushing medical debt by making help available to those who qualify.”

At the time of the unlawful conduct, Washington households making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level were eligible for free care or discounts on out-of-pocket hospital expenses. As a result of a new law proposed by Attorney General Ferguson, Washington law now guarantees individuals making up to 400% of the federal poverty level receive financial assistance on their out-of-pocket hospital expenses, regardless of their insurance. Millions of Washingtonians are eligible for full write-offs for necessary medical expenses received in Washington hospitals. For more information about Washington’s medical financial assistance law, including tools to see if you qualify, visit

According to a consent decree, filed in Whatcom County Superior Court, PeaceHealth will pay approximately $4.2 million in direct refunds — including more than $400,000 in interest — to more than 4,500 patients. This represents full restitution, plus interest, for these impacted consumers. The average payment to these individuals will be more than $900. Eight Washingtonians will receive more than $10,000. Nearly 50 will see refunds of more than $5,000. Washingtonians will receive direct refunds in the form of checks in the mail.

PeaceHealth is also required to refund up to an additional $9.2 million — including more than $900,000 interest — through a claims process to approximately 11,000 patients who were also likely eligible for help on their medical bills. If they file claims, these 11,000 patients will receive full restitution plus interest. Qualifying patients will receive a letter from the Attorney General’s Office informing them of the resolution and refund process.

The primary difference between the two groups of consumers relates to their estimated income level. The first group likely has a lower estimated income, while the second group likely has a higher level. The additional 11,000 patients can return a simple form proving that they qualify to receive assistance.

None of the impacted patients have outstanding medical debt for hospital care they received from PeaceHealth during the time in question.

If patients have questions about whether they qualify for this resolution, they should contact PeaceHealth. The Attorney General’s Office does not have patient data. PeaceHealth can be reached at 877-314-2011. Anyone who feels they are not receiving the financial assistance on their hospital bill they are entitled to should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

In addition to the up to $13.4 million in patient refunds, PeaceHealth will pay $2 million to the Attorney General’s Office. That payment will reimburse the costs of the investigation and help fund the office’s continued work to ensure Washington hospitals are following the state’s medical financial assistance laws.

If you were billed for, or paid for health care at a Washington hospital but believe you were eligible for financial assistance, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

Share this story!