MultiCare Auburn Medical Center. File photo

MultiCare Auburn Medical Center. File photo

Do you need to pay for your COVID hospital stay?

Washington state law requires hospitals to provide free care for certain income brackets.

Thousands across King County who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 are likely burdened with medical bills, but financial assistance is available.

The average hospital bill for someone with COVID-19 is around $50,000, according to FAIR Health, and for cases with complexities, that number skyrockets to over $300,000.

Washington state law requires hospitals to offer free or reduced costs for patients who make under a certain income, according to Senate Bill 6273. This financial assistance is known as “charity care.”

The law requires hospitals to provide free care that is medically necessary for patients with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty guidelines and discounted care for patients with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines, according to the Department of Health. However, many local hospitals have higher thresholds for free care.

For example, at MultiCare hospitals, people who earn up to 300% of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible to have their hospital bills cut by 100%, according to the MultiCare website. CHI Franciscan has the same threshold of 300% of the federal poverty guideline to qualify for free care, according to their financial assistance policy.

The 2021 federal poverty guideline for an individual is $12,880 in annual income, and 300% of that is $38,640. This means an individual who earned $38,640 or less annually is eligible for free care at MultiCare and CHI hospitals.

The threshold increases to $79,500 for a family of four. You can see a full breakdown of eligibility based on family size on MultiCare’s financial assistance website.

Families who earn between 301% and 500% of the federal poverty guidelines are also eligible for discounted medical bills at MultiCare hospitals, according to MultiCare. However, the exact size of discount changes based on income, family size and assets. This does not apply to other hospitals.

These discounts apply regardless of a patient’s insurance status. Hospitals are required to provide patients with information about financial assistance.

The financial assistance for hospital bills is not automatic. You have to apply for the assistance and prove your income in order to receive discounts. Most hospitals, including MultiCare and Virginia Mason Franciscan have information and forms regarding financial assistance available online.


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