New York governor to curb hospitals suing patients

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has vowed to protect New Yorkers from medical debt, limit hospitals' ability to sue patients and expand financial assistance programs as part of her 2024 State of the State.

Ms. Hochul aims to introduce legislation that would curb hospitals' ability to sue patients earning less than 400% of the federal poverty level ($120,000 for a family of four). 

The legislation would also expand hospital financial assistance programs for low-income New Yorkers, limit the size of monthly payments and interest charged for medical debt, among other protections to improve access to financial assistance and mitigate the effects of medical debt.

"More than 700,000 New Yorkers have medical debt in collections. Individuals with medical debt are less likely to seek necessary medical care and report being forced to cut back on critical social determinants of health, including food, heat, and rent," Ms. Hochul's office said in a Jan. 2 news release. "As a result, substantial debt levels threaten not only the financial stability of many individuals and families, but also undermine the state's commitment to improving health equity and health outcomes."

The governor also aims to eliminate insulin cost-sharing through proposed legislation and provide financial relief to New Yorkers and improve adherence to these medications. With 1.58 million New Yorkers diagnosed with diabetes, Ms. Hochul's office estimates this initiative will save about $14 million in 2025 alone. 

"Too many New Yorkers today must overextend their finances to afford critical healthcare, like insulin, and to pay everyday expenses, like rent," New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Adrienne Harris said. "When an individual is forced to choose between the two, deprioritizing their health impacts their lives, their families, and ultimately increases costs across the healthcare system. The alternative is no better. Without enough cash to cover all expenses, New Yorkers have turned to buy now, pay later products, racking up debt with companies that have operated without guardrails in this state for too long."

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