States move to relieve patient medical debt

At least 10 states, including Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico and Maine, have passed laws in the last year requiring hospitals to give low-income patients financial assistance, the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 7.

Washington and Vermont are considering laws that would add medical-billing protections.  

The actions come as hospitals face criticism about tactics used in collecting medical debt, according to the report. 

Dale Folwell, North Carolina's treasurer, recently released a report that blamed hospitals for billing low-income patients eligible for free or discounted care and not fulfilling their charity care requirements.

"They are not doing enough for the lower- and fixed-income people of our communities," he told the Journal.

North Carolina lawmakers will further look into the findings in the report, according to the Journal.

The American Hospital Association told the Journal that hospitals have given more than $700 billion in uncompensated care since 2000.

"The hospital field does more than any other part of the healthcare sector to support patients from all backgrounds,” giving treatment regardless of their ability to pay," said Stacey Hughes, an executive vice president of the association.

Three in four Americans owe more than $2,000 in medical debt, a December survey by Discover Personal Loans found.

Read more here.

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