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Settlement erases $50M in medical debt for thousands of patients

Thousands of former patients at Deaconess and Valley hospitals in Washington state will have medical debts erased as part of a major legal settlement with a struggling for-profit hospital chain.

Tennessee-based Community Health Systems will forgive up to $50 million in debt for people who received treatment at the Spokane-area hospitals between Nov. 1, 2008, and June 30, 2017, when the company owned the facilities.

The settlement comes more than two years after the Empire Health Foundation sued CHS, alleging the company failed to provide levels of charity care – free or discounted treatment for low-income patients – that it had promised when buying the hospitals. The foundation formed when the former Empire Health Services sold the hospitals to CHS in 2008.

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