The Uncompensated Care Fund


A child’s health should not hinge on a family’s finances. Seattle Children’s was founded on the belief and promise that all children should receive the best quality care regardless of ability to pay. At Seattle Children’s we provide hope, care and cures to help every child live the healthiest and most fulfilling life possible. In 2016, we provided $126 million in uncompensated care to children in Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.
          - Seattle Children’s Hospital

The Uncompensated Care Fund provides financial support for families who otherwise cannot pay for medical care, based on family need and the hospital’s resources. This has allowed children to receive ongoing care when insurance no longer pays, participate in drug trials, and maximize quality care while releasing the financial burden on a family unit. The fund receives money from a variety of sources, and is a representation of the philanthropic community in the Pacific Northwest.

Uncompensated Care | Seattle Children's Hospital


In January 1907, Anna Clise joined 23 female friends to establish the first pediatric medical facility in the Pacific Northwest. The death of Anna Clise’s young son from inflammatory rheumatism in 1898 made her aware of the lack of specialized care for children – and inspired her to take action. Her original vision over a century ago still guides Seattle Children’s Hospital today:

To care for children regardless of race, religion, gender or a family’s ability to pay.

Seattle Children’s first opened as the “Children’s Orthopedic Hospital” in 1907 and run by an association of women (mostly mothers) who donated their time. These women paid $10 for annual membership, and an additional $10 to initiate the treasury – all out of their own pockets. In the first year, Children’s Orthopedic Hospital treated 13 children on a ward at Seattle General Hospital for a total cost of $1,000. The Children’s Orthopedic Hospital Association’s Membership Committee then began soliciting charitable contributions to pay for the beds at Seattle General Hospital. By March 1907, 105 citizens purchased a $10 membership. In the summer of 1907, the Guild Committee was formed to support neighborhood fundraising and hold regular meetings on the financial condition of the Hospital Association. The hospital continued to grow and evolve through charitable donations from the Seattle community and beyond.

Though the hospital has changed names a number of times, the idea of philanthropy and community support is still evident over a century after Anna Clise’s dream became a reality. As the largest all-volunteer fundraising network of any hospital in the nation, the Guild Association helps the hospital fulfill its promise to provide world-class health care through fundraising, volunteering and advocacy.

Read more about the history here!

Where do the funds come from?

As Seattle Children’s Hospital continues to expand in square footage, it also grows in the number of children and families it serves. Since its birth, Seattle Children’s has provided millions of dollars in uncompensated care.

In Fiscal Year 20161, the un/undercompensated care fund covered $126,683,000 in medical bills for families who most needed help. Where did this money come from? Generous donors, including:

The beautiful thing is every contribution, no matter how small, is meaningful. In FY 2016, Seattle Children’s received 76,704 gifts under $100.

The Guild Association at Seattle Children’s started in 1907, and it continues to grow today. As of FY 2016, there are 450 guilds and 6,200 volunteer guild members! Each guild is unique to its members’ passions and host events such as wine auctions, golf tournaments… or climbs of Mount Rainier. The passion and dedication of guild members is represented by the fact that Seattle Children’s doesn’t ASK for guilds to form. Rather, people come to Seattle Children’s asking how they can help. Other hospitals have asked how to initiate a similar model, but the Seattle community has taken philanthropy into their own hands, and there’s no equation to the generosity.

Seattle Children’s continues to provide greater amounts in care that was not otherwise paid for thanks to these generous donations. In Fiscal Year 2017, the uncompensated care fund increased its coverage to $164 million in medical bills. The reason for this increase has not yet been evaluated, but one thing is certain: The need continues to rise.

We must continue to rise as a community to support the need.
Why is this important?

As the President of Peaks of Life, Forrest Barker, states:

All children deserve the world's best healthcare just by virtue of being children. Most places, this is an idealistic view that isn't actually achievable, but not in Seattle. The Uncompensated Care Fund allows Seattle Children’s Hospital to make what is a dream elsewhere a reality by providing the very best quality of care to all children regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

As healthcare goes through multiple reforms and health insurance remains a challenge for many families, children are in need of extra support. With financial assistance at Seattle Children’s, a child may qualify to have medical bills partially or fully paid for. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho (with some exceptions).

There are many ways for a family to receive financial assistance at Seattle Children’s, and the process of applying is quite simple. Rather than be overwhelmed with cumbersome paperwork, families may apply online or download this simple form. Typically, financial assistance lasts for 6 months, but a family can re-apply at any time. Additionally, families may receive a call to alert them they are eligible for financial assistance without applying. The qualifications for financial assistance can be found in this policy, but a financial counselor is always available to answer family questions and guide them on the right path.

The topic of healthcare and insurance coverage is often the cause of financial stress. Deductibles are getting higher. Families and individuals must pay a higher amount for their services before insurance begins to pay. Additionally, copayments and coinsurance costs are often associated with medical care. After paying all deductibles, some insurances require individuals to share the cost of services in a certain dollar amount (copayment) or percentage of the service provided (coinsurance). This amount depends on what insurances the individual has (sometimes two insurances, (a primary and secondary), how much the doctor charges, whether the doctor is in the insurance’s network, the type of facility, and many other factors.

It Starts with YES

You may have seen billboards dotting the highways stating It Starts with YES, but what do they mean? Seattle Children’s started the It Starts With YES campaign in November 2017 with the bold goal to raise $1 billion in order to:

Say yes to every child and family, including those who will never walk through our doors and those for whom we are their only hope.

We live in an unbelievable era of scientific breakthrough, and Seattle Children’s Hospital aims to be ahead of the curve with drug trials, research to find cures, and quality care. Seattle Children’s shares the promise to deliver care to every family in need and transform treatment and cures from some of the most devastating childhood diseases. As a community, we can act to help Seattle Children’s deliver on their biggest ideas – life changing ideas that point toward an amazing future. The campaign is focusing on contributing money to four areas in order to advance in providing hope, care, and cures.

By contributing to Seattle Children’s, we can strive to answer “yes” to the following questions:

Uncompensated Care: Can we care for every child who needs us today, tomorrow, always?
Cancer Research: Can we use her own immune system to cure her cancer?
Odessa Brown Clinic: Can we give them a fighting chance to stay healthy?
Neurology: Can we find better ways to treat her neurological disorder?

Seattle Children’s asks us to join together as a community NOW in order to transform children’s healthcare for generations to come:

At a time when many hospitals are cutting back, we ask you to join us as we seize the moment and do more.
We don’t believe today’s volatile healthcare landscape is a reason to scale back services at the expense of children who need us now more than ever.

Big News!

This week, Seattle Children’s Hospital received a $60 million legacy gift towards uncompensated care! This is the second largest gift in the hospital’s history, and largest gift received as part of the $1 billion It Starts With YES campaign. The gift comes from the estate of Bruce Leven – a Mercer Island resident who passed away in September 2017. This legacy gift will support uncompensated care through the creation of the Bruce Leven Endowed Fund.

“We are deeply grateful for Bruce’s incredible generosity in leaving behind a lasting legacy that will help us say yes to hope, care and cure for every child in our region… Kids need us now more than ever. It is gifts like these from our community that will ensure we will be able to meet these growing needs now and into the future.”
         - Dr. Jeff Sperring, Seattle Children’s Chief Executive Officer

Peaks of Life Takes Action

As an all volunteer non-profit organization and guild with Seattle Children’s, we’ve taken the pledge to raise money for the uncompensated care fund by climbing peaks throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.4 Additionally, we host a gala every fall to allow our sponsors, climbers, volunteers, and community to come together for an evening of dinner and special events. Our gala is a way to say “Thank You” to our generous community and further support the patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

It’s important to note that all guilds choose where their fundraising efforts will be focused. About 50% of the guilds have chosen to donate towards the uncompensated care fund, while others choose research studies, clinics, or other areas to sponsor. We’ve consistently donated to the uncompensated care fund because we believe financial status should not impact the quality of care children receive.

The uncompensated care fund is a way for the community to support itself, specifically by helping the families who are faced with the unimaginable. It is a way for Seattle Children's to provide care to every child who needs it by reducing the importance of money and bureaucracy.
         - Brooke Jarvie, Managing Director, Peaks of Life

This is our passion, and we won’t stop climbing until Seattle Children’s Hospital can answer “YES” to every child who walks through its doors…

Notes and Resources:
1 Seattle Children’s Hospital Fiscal Year runs from October 1 to September 30. The numbers reported in this post are related to Fiscal Year 16. A detailed report for Fiscal Year 17 is still underway.
2 Please download the Seattle Children’s 2016-2017 Community Benefit Report here.
3 Read the full Fiscal Year 2016 statistics here.
**Please note all the above information was collected from Seattle Children’s Hospital’s documents, website, and other resources. The information reported is available to the public in a variety of sources, and often directly quoted to avoid miscommunication of the information. If you find any discrepancies in the information presented in this post, please contact us with your concerns. Thank you!
4 Stay tuned for our March 2018 blog post, which will highlight the story of why and how Forrest Barker started Peaks of Life.

Here's to Climbing For More Than A Summit!

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