One of the nations largest non-profit hospital chains, Providence, was responsible for an aggressive scheme to hassle and harass financially destitute patients for money

One of the nations largest non-profit hospital chains was responsible for an aggressive scheme to hassle and harass financially destitute patients for money, even when they were legally not required to pay. 

According to a shocking new report from the New York Times, Providence Health & Services began their plan in 2018 and continued it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Employees of Providence were required to employ tactics from a ‘detailed playbook’ named Rev-Up in order to fleece money from patients. If patients still didn’t pay, their accounts were referred on to even more aggressive debt-collecting services, ruining some victims’ credit ratings.

Providence is a non-profit hospital originally set up by nuns to provide care for those too poor to pay for it. It sits on a $10 billion cash pile, and even has its own private equity firm for investments, sparking allegations that the medical giant has moved far beyond the noble aims of its founders.  

The strategies employed to finesse patients were devised in part by consulting giant McKinsey & Company. 

Prior to instigating the plan, Providence would forgive the outstanding debts owed by people whose bills were partially paid by Medicaid. 

One of the nations largest non-profit hospital chains, Providence, was responsible for an aggressive scheme to hassle and harass financially destitute patients for money

One of the nations largest non-profit hospital chains, Providence, was responsible for an aggressive scheme to hassle and harass financially destitute patients for money

According to his LinkedIn page, Dr. Rod Hochman, pictured here, has been the CEO and president of Providence since 2013. His salary is around $10 million per year

According to his LinkedIn page, Dr. Rod Hochman, pictured here, has been the CEO and president of Providence since 2013. His salary is around $10 million per year

The practice violates laws in California, Washington and Oregon. Since February, Providence has been fighting a lawsuit in Washington regarding their practices. 

According to his LinkedIn page, Dr. Rod Hochman has been the CEO and president of Providence since 2013 and has overseen the money-grabbing changes. 

Among those who were hounded by Providence employees was recently bereaved mother, Vanessa Weller. 

Already a single mother, Weller, of Anchorage, Alaska, was 24 weeks pregnant when she went to a Providence facility in her hometown. 

She was forced to give birth via caesarean. Her son, Isaiah, weighed just one pound. After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died. A member of staff first approached her about payment while Isaiah lay dying in intensive care. 

Weller told hospital staff that she intended to pay via Medicaid. 

Despite being eligible for benefits, Weller said she began getting phone calls from Providence around a month after her baby’s death. 

The price she was quoted was $125,000. At the time, Weller worked as a manager at a Wendy’s franchise, with the bill four times her annual salary. 

Weller was later quoted half the original price, then a payment plan, according to the Times report, she has not paid any of the bill.

66-year-old Alexandra Nyfors was rushed to the hospital in 2021 due to kidney issues, despite qualifying for Medicaid and being on disability, she was slapped with a $2,000 fee by Providence

66-year-old Alexandra Nyfors was rushed to the hospital in 2021 due to kidney issues, despite qualifying for Medicaid and being on disability, she was slapped with a $2,000 fee by Providence

Bev Kolpin, an employee of Providence, said she was sent a bill for $8,000 even though she qualified for Medicaid

Bev Kolpin, an employee of Providence, said she was sent a bill for $8,000 even though she qualified for Medicaid

Providence Health & Services began their plan in 2018 and continued it throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Times report

Providence Health & Services began their plan in 2018 and continued it throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Times report

She did say her credit score was destroyed as a result of the arrears. Weller described the phone calls she received saying: ‘It was like they were following some script. Like robots.’

Another harrowing story in the Times feature came from an actual Providence employee, Bev Kolpin.

She said that while working as a sonogram technician for a Providence hospital in Oregon, she needed to take time off to have a cyst removed. The time off was unpaid. 

Kolpin said she was sent a bill for $8,000 even though she qualified for Medicaid. She said: ‘I felt a little betrayed. I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.’ 

Eventually, Kolpin was forced to pay $4,000 after she had a lawyer negotiate with Providence. 

While a 66-year-old woman named Alexandra Nyfors was rushed by an ambulance to the Providence hospital in Everett, Wash., in October 2021. Nyfors, 66, is diabetic and was suffering from dehydration, which was causing her kidneys to fail. 

Nyfors only source of income was $1,700 in federal disability payments. Following her treatment in the hospital, Nyfors was handed a bill of nearly $2,000. 

After agreeing to pay the hospital a monthly payment of $162.50, she began to cut back significantly on medication and groceries as well as going without heat throughout the winter. 

After Nyfors did an interview with the Everett Daily Herald, the hospital finally agreed to forgive her debt and repaid the money the had already paid. 

She told the newspaper it was not until she heard that Washington State had filed a lawsuit against Providence that she realized it was illegal they were asking her to pay. 

Providence CEO Dr. Rod Hochman and CFO Venkat Bhamidipati pictured in January 2019

Providence CEO Dr. Rod Hochman and CFO Venkat Bhamidipati pictured in January 2019

Providence, based in Renton, Washington, runs 51 hospitals and nearly 1,000 clinics

Providence, based in Renton, Washington, runs 51 hospitals and nearly 1,000 clinics

Despite the treatment by the hospital’s management, Nyfors had nothing but good things to say about the staff.

Nyfors explained to the Daily Herald: ‘I feel like it’s really important to separate the people who are the caregivers from the that Providence does, where they’re demanding payment.’

She added: ‘The caregivers are good people, who really care. They really took good care of me.’ 

She told the Times that in June 2022, she received a letter from the Providence hospital asking her for a charitable donation. The letter read: ‘No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.’

Meanwhile, Harriet Haffner-Ratliffe, 20, was billed $2,300 after giving birth to twins at a Providence hospital in Olympia, Washington, in 2017.

She was eligible to have her bills covered – but Providence didn’t tell her that, and instead lumbered her with a bill she couldn’t pay.

The unemployed teenager also couldn’t afford the $100-a-month payment plan Providence forced her onto.

She ended up being chased by debt collectors. That saw Haffner-Ratliffe’s credit score plunge by 200 points, making it even more difficult for her to manager her finances.  

In 2021, Dr. Hochman was quoted as saying that ‘nonprofit health care is a misnomer. It is tax-exempt health care. It still makes profits.’ 

The Times report says that under Hochman, Providence has become a ‘financial powerhouse.’ 

The article goes on to say that in 2020, Hochman was paid $10 million while Providence has bought 18 new hospital facilities. 

In a separate 2018 article, the Times reported Hochman was also paid $10 million. 

The name Rev-Up was a reference to revenue growth, according to the Times. The ‘playbook’ given to administrative staff told them, among other things, that regardless of a patient’s economic status, ‘payment is expected.’

Staff were encouraged to ask questions such as: ‘How would like to pay today?’ Training materials told staff: ‘Don’t accept the first “No.” ‘ The Times describes letting patients know of financial aid as a ‘last resort.’ 

The Times report goes on to say that staff would mock the hospital’s aggressive tactics; on one Halloween, a staff member dressed up in a professional wrestler-themed costume, his character’s name was Rev-Up Ricky.

Another staff member had a costume that ‘featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it,’ a reference to the hospital’s policy of asking patients how they would be paying. 

Providence, based in Renton, Wash., runs 51 hospitals and nearly 1,000 clinics. 

It reported an operating loss of $214 million for the first nine months of 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as expenses rose 4 percent and patient volume dropped by 10 percent.

But the health system’s reserve of cash and investments ballooned to $14.5 billion by Sept. 30 – an increase of $2.2 billion from nine months earlier. 

A spokesman said that was due in large part to $1.6 billion in coronavirus loans from Medicare that must be repaid. 

Providence also got $682 million in CARES Act grants and $9 million initially from FEMA. The hospital chain said it plans to file more requests with FEMA for an undetermined amount.

Providence said it will follow all federal rules in seeking the disaster aid. FEMA officials have reminded applicants not to seek funding for work or expenses covered by the CARES Act or other sources.

‘We are being diligent in our effort to avoid double dipping,’ Providence said in a statement.

Providence said it needs the money to offset COVID-related costs as the pandemic ‘enters what appears to be its most dangerous phase,’ Reuters reported in December 2020.  

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