States Act to Protect Consumers from Medical Debt

2021 Jun 10 - 2:00pm-3:30pm - Zoom (registration link in description)

Host: Community Catalyst

Register here for Community Catalyst’s panel event, States Act to Protect Consumers from Medical Debt.

Medical debt continues to be a major concern for many individuals and families in the United States. Nationally, more than one in five Americans (23 percent) report having unpaid medical bills; the number rises to 33 percent among those who are uninsured. Due to unfair and discriminatory barriers to health care, compared to their white counterparts, people of color, particularly Black Americans, are more likely than white Americans to incur medical debt. Medical debt is a problem that influences individual and family care choices and threatens people’s ability to make ends meet. Those with medical debt, whether insured or uninsured, tend to postpone needed care and use up all or most of their savings trying to pay their medical bills. Medical debt also damages their credit ratings and causes lasting impacts on their ability to obtain loans and can even impact job opportunities.

The Affordable Care Act and its implementing regulations has helped address the problem of medical debt and increase transparency by requiring nonprofit hospitals to adopt financial assistance policies and restricting their debt collection activities prior to making a determination of whether a patient is eligible for financial assistance. While this represents a significant step forward, consumer protections included under the ACA are incomplete since it applies only to nonprofit hospitals. Patients receiving care from independent specialists providing care in non-profit hospitals, or-profit hospitals and other health care provider organizations do not benefit from these protections. To fill in the gap, many states have enacted stronger protections, going beyond the federal law. During this informative session, advocates from four states, New Mexico, Maryland, New York, and Oregon will share their successful strategies for protecting consumers from medical debt in their states.

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