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Chicago debt collector Harris & Harris and another medical debt collection agency have been added to a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General of Washington (State) against a hospital chain, alleging violations of consumer protection laws related to financial assistance.

The lawsuit was initially filed in February 2022 and alleges that the Providence healthcare system, which operates dozens of hospitals in Washington and other western states, engaged in improper conduct in connection with financial assistance and medical debt collection.

The Attorney General has now added medical debt collectors Harris & Harris and Optimum Outcomes, alleging that they failed to inform Washington residents about their legal right to access medical financial assistance, The violations alleged include the agencies' failure to send notification of eligibility of financial assistance with the first debt collection requests to individuals.

In addition to failing to notify eligible individuals, the attorney general also accused the debt collection agencies of failing to inform individuals of their right to request information about their debt.

The attorney general's office said an estimated 54,000 accounts of low-income patients were referred by Providence to debt collection agencies, and those accounts held more than $470 million in outstanding medical debt.

Providence contracted Harris & Harris and Optimum Outcomes in September 2019 to begin collecting medical debts on the health system's behalf.

Providence and the debt collectors dispute the claims.

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