I am often asked the rationale behind the common agreements that we have asked all partners to commit to. For those who aren’t familiar with them they are linked here.
Since 2014, when leaders from across five counties and eight tribal nations formed what is now North Sound ACH, the underlying focus on advancing equity has been present. To further that end, in December 2020 the Board of Directors made this even more explicit, adopting a set of goals for the organization to ensure that all people in the region have access to the conditions relied on every day for well-being. Operationally, we incorporated those goals into contracts between us and our partners – the set of common agreements mentioned above.
In a recent New York Times article, questionable billing practices of nonprofit health systems for patients at or near the federal poverty level were explored, and examples were used from one of our health system partners, Providence. (Please also read the response from Providence at this link.)
As a backdrop, the Affordable Care Act set requirements for nonprofit health systems to disclose their charity care, an intention to help the most vulnerable individuals and families in our communities. Some states, including Washington, followed by enacting legislation to identify if and who would be eligible for free or discounted care; you can find a brief description of Washington’s requirements at the Attorney General’s website.
It is unacceptable when practices leave people at lower income levels to be buried in even more debt when there are programs to mitigate those circumstances. But we cannot jump to condemn the individuals and caregivers who work with those systems, who have been serving patients under some of the most trying conditions our nation has ever faced. When system-level decisions are made, the systems must work to acknowledge and correct those system-level decisions.
Regionally, we are working to change the conditions that leave people suffering and struggling, and advance strategies where all community members can thrive. It is a worthy goal, and we’re grateful to have a wide array of regional partners on board with us, including strong practitioners from Providence.
We believe in what our partners have committed to – not just in writing, but in action. We also believe that North Sound ACH can be of support as our partners navigate tough times. As we have done in the past, we will provide a space for anyone to join in advancing equitable well-being across the region, with our partners and even within our own team here at North Sound ACH. This requires that we all are able to point out when we or I stumble and to work together to do better.