Community Members and Nurses outside FHS President Syd Bersante’s office
On Wednesday, community members including nurses from Franciscan Health System visited the office of St. Joseph CEO Syd Bersante, RN to deliver a list of demands and a dozen charity care applications.
St. Joseph—a hospital with profit margins significantly higher than the state average—is located in the Hilltop community in Tacoma, where the per capita income is just over $16,000 annually. As a hospital that receives significant tax breaks, St. Joe’s has a legal responsibility to support its community and provide financial assistance to low income patients who cannot otherwise afford care. So why are so many Hilltop residents facing medical debt, often upwards of tens of thousands of dollars?
Because St. Joe’s is not holding up their end of the bargain. Many patients never find out about the availability of charity care despite their clear eligibility. Those who do are often overwhelmed by the complex application process that requires them to break down their budget into 12 separate items, write a letter explaining how they make ends meet, and provide other hard-to-access documents that prove their income. Patients have a total of 14 days after suffering a medical emergency to provide all this information, most of which is not required by Washington State Charity Care law. In the cases where patients are able to submit all the required documents in time, many report the hospital losing their application or never receiving an eligibility determination. As a result, many patients who qualify for complete or substantial discounts end up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and are sent to collections.
Franciscan Health System and St. Joseph Medical Center can do better, and Washington CAN members are beginning to take matters into their own hands, helping each other fill out the paperwork when it becomes too confusing to do alone. If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that it shouldn’t be this hard.
In addition to submitting 12 charity care applications (including those of nurses taken to collections by their own employer), these community members delivered a letter to the CEO of St. Joe’s urging the following action:
- Forgive existing medical debt and openly offer financial assistance to patients in need.
- Provide financial assistance for all services, inpatient and outpatient.
- Make the charity care application process easy and available to all.
- Stop subjecting patients to threats and abuse from aggressive collection agencies.
- Be accountable to the community and answer to an oversight committee to assure access to care for everyone.
We are calling on Franciscan Health System and St. Joseph Medical Center to live up to its mission to “emphasize human dignity and social justice” and make financial assistance accessible to all low-income patients. Together, we can hold FHS and St. Joe’s to a higher standard of care for our communities.
Washington CAN’s annual Summer Leadership Conference is right around the corner! This year, we’ll talk about seizing power and making change at the local level. We know that our future and our prosperity will change only by building a powerful base. Join us for workshops on racial justice, fundraising, power mapping, communications strategy, and money in politics.
You can expect plenty of fun, music, food, exchange of ideas, inspiration, new connections from around the country, lively discussions, great people, and taking political action together.
“Power from the Roots Up” Conference
Thurs. July 10th – Sat. July 12th
University of Washington
As always, this conference is free to Washington CAN members and their families, and includes meals and childcare (and for those attending from outside of King County, transportation and dorm lodging are also available). If you have any questions or need help getting registered, call us at 206-389-0050.
Last Monday, the Basic Health Option passed the House! The vote was 54 yes, 43 no, and 1 excused. We’re one step closer, but there’s still work to do.
Now, we need to motivate the Senate Health Care committee to pass it, so that it can reach the Senate floor. Two lawmakers are of particular interest, Randi Becker (chair) and Bruce Dammeier (vice-chair) who are in the 25th and the 2nd districts.
These districts are in Pierce County, which has the highest number of people who would be eligible for the Basic Health program (more than 3.5% of the total population of the county would be eligible).
Take action TODAY by calling your Senator today and urging them to stand strong with the Basic Health Option (SB 6231). Washington Legislative Hotline: 1-800-562-6000.
Legislative session started last Monday and we have already made some big steps towards equity. See below for a legislative update that highlights the status of some of the bills on our proactive racial equity agenda (click here to see the full agenda and information about what the bills would accomplish). Ways to take action are highlighted in bold below.
Youth Opportunities Act (SHB 1651): This bill will be heard in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government on Wednesday, Jan. 29th at 3:30. Please email legislators on this committee before the hearing to emphasize your support of this bill and any positive fiscal impact you think it will have (increased employment, decreased criminal justice involvement, fewer juvenile records sealing cases, etc.). See below for the list of legislators/contact info. for the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government:
- Zack Hudgins (D) (Chair): email@example.com (Voted for YOA last year)
- Kevin Parker (R): firstname.lastname@example.org (Voted for YOA last year)
- Vincent Buys (R): email@example.com (Voted for YOA last year)
- Leonard Christian (R): firstname.lastname@example.org (New to the legislature)
- Hans Dunshee (D): email@example.com (Voted for YOA last year)
- Sam Hunt (D): firstname.lastname@example.org (Sponsored bill)
- Laurie Jinkins (D): email@example.com (Sponsored bill)
- Larry Springer (D): firstname.lastname@example.org (Voted for YOA last year)
- David Taylor (R): email@example.com (Voted for YOA last year)
If anyone would like to testify, or know of someone who could give compelling testimony, please contact Casey at Columbia Legal Services: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also be in touch with Casey if you hear back from any legislators with their position on this bill.
Washington State DREAM Act (HB 1817): Passed out of the House the first day of session! The bill is now in the Senate Higher Education Committee, and will need to be voted out of committee to go to a full floor vote. We’ll let folks know when it would be helpful to reach out to Senators in support of the bill.
Voting Rights Act (HB 1413): The Voting Rights Act will be voted on in the House Rules Committee on January 27th- Location/Time TBA. Allies are asking partners to help pack the room – please contact Shankar Narayan at the ACLU (email@example.com) or Emily Murphy at One America (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’re interested in attending.
Paid Sick Days (HB 1313): Folks in the Work and Family coalition have been urging House leadership to pass a statewide paid sick days bill, but their vote count is still a little short – and one of the uncommitteds is Eric Pettigrew. We are urging individuals in the 37th district to take a minute to email Representative Pettigrew (email@example.com). Let him know that as one of his constituents you strongly support paid sick days for everyone in Washington and urge him to help lead the effort to pass HB 1313. Here is the message we would like to convey: No one should be forced to go to work sick, or lose a paycheck because they stayed home with a sick child or took their ailing parent to the doctor. But over 1 million working people in Washington state don’t get a single day of paid sick leave now. HB 1313 is modeled after Seattle’s successful Paid Sick and Safe Leave policy, co-written by small business owners, health professionals, and working family advocates. Assuring that all workers in our state can earn paid sick leave will help rebuild the middle class and restore our economy. Paid Sick Days passed through the full committee process last year, and could brought to the floor of the House immediately. The session is short, and it’s important to move this bill quickly.
Today we held our first ever Legislative Summit on Racial Equity. In partnership with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and a strong coalition of community organizations, Washington CAN! organized an evening of community conversation with state legislators about ways that the state can create policies that advance racial equity in Washington.
Community members shared how specific policies up for consideration in the 2014 Washington State legislative session will directly advance racial equity by reducing vestiges of institutional racism that manifest themselves through disparate outcomes for communities of color.
Among the top priorities for the 2014 legislative session are:
- Implementing the Federal Basic Health Option through the Affordable Care Act
- Passing Statewide Paid Sick Days
- Passing the Washington State DREAM Act
- Abolishing the death penalty in Washington State and passing the Youth Opportunities Act, which would seal juvenile records from public disclosure
Legislators including, Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Representatives Jessyn Farrell, David Sawyer, Mary Helen Roberts, and Senator Bob Hasagawa, as well as other local government representatives in the room to share their own personal commitments to advancing racial equity.
You can see a full report of the 2014 Proactive Legislative Agenda here.