Approximately 43,000 former patients of Santa Clara Valley Healthcare, serving Santa Clara County in California, will soon receive notice of possible billing corrections and refunds.
The increased patient outreach efforts are part of the settlement of a lawsuit that alleged the county did not adequately inform three former patients about its previous hospital charity care and discount payment policies after they incurred bills ranging from $8,000 to $35,000 between 2013 and 2017. The bills were sent to collections, according to Santa Clara County.
At the time of their hospitalization, one petitioner was uninsured who was a single mother of two children and a full-time student; another was uninsured and spoke primarily Spanish; and the third was unemployed and unhoused.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
As part of the settlement, the county will provide an opportunity for patients whose bills were sent to collections between October 28, 2018, and December 31, 2021, to have their bills re-reviewed for full or partial discounts.
People who receive this notice will have 65 days to complete and return a form indicating their interest to apply. They’ll then have an additional 150 days to complete their application by submitting documents to verify their information.
Tens of thousands of people treated at Santa Clara County-owned hospitals may now qualify to have their medical debt erased.
This comes in the wake of a June lawsuit settlement that accused Santa Clara Valley Healthcare of charging needy patients for care they should have received for free.
The county said yesterday it has begun notifying patients who should have been eligible for “charity care,” reduced-cost or free medical services for low-income people. Those who apply in the next several weeks could see their outstanding hospital bills voided, have court judgements corrected and even receive refund checks in the mail.
The settlement is a major win for patient advocates like Helen Tran, a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty who worked on the case.
“It sends a really important message to hospitals statewide—that they should take their charity care obligations seriously,” she told San José Spotlight. “The county has done so.”
All acute care hospitals in California must offer charity care to anyone uninsured, and many people with insurance, who earn below a certain threshold—currently 400% of the federal poverty level. That’s about $58,000 annually for an individual and $120,000 for a family of four. Patients must also be told about charity care options in their native language.
If you are a former patient at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, you may be owed some cash. The hospital has started notifying more than 40,000 former patients about refunds due to incorrect billing. It is part of a settlement involving patients who were sent to collections for charges that they never should have been asked to pay. Joining us live now to discuss the settlement is Helen Tran, senior attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty, which filed the suit back in 2019.