Providence will reimburse some 760 low-income patients wrongly billed for care

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Providence, one of the nation’s largest hospital systems, will reimburse payments made by more than 760 low-income patients who were forced to pay medical bills – even though they were entitled to free care.

The refunds come after a New York Times investigation found Providence pressured qualified Medicaid patients to pay with a program called Rev-Up, which, designed with help from the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, tracked down patients and sent them to debt collectors if they failed. to make payments.

The system began contacting patients eligible for reimbursement in late September, Providence spokesperson Melissa Tizon told Healthcare Dive in an email, adding that patients were asked to pay due to an error when Providence was updating its automation processes and began reimbursing patients in December.

“Recent New York Times coverage paints a false narrative that Providence intentionally takes advantage of the poor to enrich themselves,” Tizon said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Although the Rev-Up program was originally aimed at those who understand their invoices, Tizon said, the system recognizes that “the training materials, and even the Rev Up name, were not in line with our values.”

Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from taxes in exchange for providing some type of community support benefit.

But last year, Providence spent less than 1% of its spending on charitable care, according to the system’s audited financial reports, and a 2018 report found that nonprofit systems spent less on charitable care than their counterparts. for profit.

Providence spent less than 1% of its spending on charitable care in 2021

The system recorded an operating loss of $934 million in the first half of the year as patient numbers stagnated and labor expenses increased. As a result, Providence announced this summer that it would begin to restructure and downsize leadership roles amid continued operational difficulties.