North Carolina lawmakers consider laws to ease patient medical debt

North Carolina lawmakers are debating two bills meant to "de-weaponize" medical debt, Yahoo News reported July 17. 

The lawmakers are considering an expansion of Medicaid and reinforcement of patient financial protections. 

North Carolina ranks 28 on the national Medical Debt Policy Scorecard, a ranked compilation of all U.S. state's medical debt patient protection policies. Gabriela Elizondo-Craig, a lead investigator on the scorecard project developed by the University of Arizona and the University of Utah, told the publication North Carolina will rank second if it adopts these two bills. 

The bill to expand Medicaid has passed North Carolina's Senate. The House has not voted on that bill, which would provide insurance for 500,000 residents. 

The second bill, the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, would offer several new reinforcements to protect patients financially — including free care for either one patient earning less than $21,780 per year or a patient in a family of four earning less than $55,000 per year. 

A drive for changes in legislation came after the North Carolina's treasury department found that "hospitals sent nearly $150 million in bills to patients who should have qualified for free or discounted care under the hospitals' policies," according to the report.

If both bills pass, North Carolina will join a dozen other states passing laws to curb patient medical debt.

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