Senators urge Biden administration to protect patients from harsh medical debt collections

Senate Democrats are calling on federal authorities to act on the aggressive collection of medical debts, citing reports on hospitals suing patients for unpaid bills.

In a letter to the Consumer Financial Projection Bureau (CFPB), Democrat Sens. Chris Murphy (Conn.) And Chris Van Hollen (Md.) Recommended a series of actions to protect consumers ’credit scores, provide patients with more information about care and coverage options, and give them more time to dispute or settle debts before they are sent to collections.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the numerous cracks that remain in our health care system where people fall, sometimes rush, regarding the debt incurred for their care,” they wrote Friday to Dave Uejio, current director of the CFPB, Friday.

“Nationally, we hear heartbreaking stories of patients who have lost their homes, who have earned their salaries or state tax refunds, or who have been arrested for an unpaid medical bill, in some cases for as little as $ 28,” they said. written.

The CFPB must prohibit health care providers from reporting patients ’medical debt to credit bureaus, or at least require a one-year grace period for patients to have time to resolve billing disputes or asking for financial assistance, wrote Murphy and Van Hollen.

In the second quarter of 2018, medical bills accounted for more than half of third-party debt collections, senators wrote. “We invite your agency to revisit this issue of medical debt, which being declared for delinquency can have long-term implications for a person’s economic security, such as the ability to obtain loans for housing and cars.” , they wrote.

Murphy and Van Hollen also want the CFPB to protect patients from aggressive actions by debt collectors. Its proposals include: limiting the number of calls made to consumers; prohibit the collection of invoices or the reporting of credits while patients appeal denials of insurance coverage, dispute invoices or request financial assistance; and be required to inform patients about charitable care programs and potential coverage options.

CFPB should also publish a report on hospitals and debt collectors using tactics such as legal proceedings, payroll and benefits, and to incorporate information on hospital revenues into their results.

Although there is no complete accounting of how many hospitals report patients for unpaid bills, these practices in many major health systems have received scrutiny by the media and policy makers in recent years.

The University of Virginia Health System, for example, recently announced it would overturn lawsuits against thousands of patients after receiving negative press attention for its debt collection practices, including taking people to court, garnering salaries and putting liens on homes.

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