You may be eligible for free or discounted hospital care through a new law that helps more than half of Washington residents get 50-100% off their bills. All you have to do is ask your hospital’s billing department.
These discounts apply to all out-of-pocket expenses, including co-pays and deductibles, and are based on your household income. Your insurance, immigration status, and age do not affect your eligibility.
Washington’s discounted care law ensures everyone making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level is eligible for free or reduced hospital bills. Families making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for discounts as well, depending on the hospital. Large hospital systems (tier 1) are required to provide larger discounts than smaller independent hospitals (tier 2). You can see an eligibility chart with more details here.
Regardless of your age, income, or citizenship status, we recommend that you ask your hospital if you qualify for free or discounted care. Answers to many common questions about the law are below.
Can I only get discounts on future bills, or does it apply to past bills as well?
Both future care and unpaid past bills are covered, as long as they have not been subject to a court judgment. It doesn’t matter how old the bills are, or whether they have been sent to collections.
How can I confirm that I’m eligible?
To be sure if you qualify, contact your hospital’s billing department and ask for an application for discounted care. After you apply, your hospital is required to inform you if you are eligible before attempting to collect payment.
Am I eligible for discounted care if I have insurance, Medicare or Medicaid?
Yes. As long as you meet the income requirements for discounted care you are eligible. Your insurance status or other forms of aid you qualify for do not affect your eligibility.
Can I get discounted care if I don’t have insurance?
Yes. Your insurance situation does not affect your eligibility.
Are there any age, citizenship, or other requirements for receiving discounted care?
No. Anyone in Washington who meets the income requirements for discounted care is eligible, regardless of age, citizenship, or insurance status.
Do these discounts apply to clinic visits?
It depends. Hospitals are only required to provide discounts for care provided at the hospital itself, but some extend their discounted care policy to their associated clinics. Contact your hospital’s billing department to clarify what is and isn’t covered.
Are ER visits, x-rays, or outpatient procedures that are done at hospitals covered?
All medical care received at a hospital is covered. This includes emergency room care at a hospital and any other scan, test or procedure done at a hospital. Bills from physicians or other providers not employed by the hospitals may not be covered.
When I had hospital care, I received two different bills — one from the hospital, and one from the physician. Are both bills eligible for discounted or free care?
Only hospitals are required to provide discounted care. The law does not require physician bills to be eligible. However, many hospitals do require that physicians who operate in their hospitals honor their discounted care policies. Check with your hospital for details.
Does receiving discounted care affect my eligibility for Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid?
No. Discounted care applies to any out-of-pocket expenses you face for hospital care, including deductibles and copays. Medicare and Medicaid will still cover their share and then your discount will apply to anything remaining.
Can I be disqualified from discounted care because I own a home, have retirement accounts, or other assets?
Hospitals cannot consider your ownership of your primary residence, or its value, when determining your eligibility. Hospitals can consider some assets in assessing eligibility, but most people will not be excluded based on their assets. Contact your hospital to see if you’re eligible.
Where does the funding come from for free and discounted care?
As an essential part of healthcare in our state, most hospitals in Washington receive significant tax breaks with the expectation that they will provide critical care to everyone who needs it. The expense incurred by providing free and discounted care to those who need it is easily offset by these tax breaks and does not affect the payments hospitals receive from insurance companies, Medicaid, and other sources.
How does this law define a household for determining eligibility? Does this include adult children or other adult family members who live with me?
For determining eligibility, a family is defined as a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption who live together. This means the incomes of any adult family members living together can be considered in determining your eligibility. Be sure to explain your individual situation to the hospital in your application – hospitals may make exceptions based on your circumstances.
What do I do if my hospital isn’t following the state’s discounted care law?
If you think your hospital isn’t following the law, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. We are monitoring hospitals carefully and have filed several lawsuits against hospitals for failing to provide discounted care to eligible people.