The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition is calling on the legislature to reform health care so that low income patients receive the care they deserve. As MCRC points out, too many Marylanders are being sent to debt collection over hospital bills — even when they qualify for free care.
Here’s more from an MCRC email:
Our healthcare system in Maryland needs a dramatic overhaul. Despite the fact that Maryland’s nonprofit hospitals are paid by the state to provide free medical care to low-income patients, a recent Health Service Cost Review Commission (HSCRC) study found that hospitals sent 60% of patients who were eligible for free care to debt collection. In other words, hospitals failed low-income patients 60% of the time.
Not only that, but hospitals collected $61 million dollars from low-income patients that were supposed to receive free care. We are in the midst of a global health pandemic and despite increases in vaccines, widespread racial disparities in access to vaccines as well as in exposure to the virus remain. Thousands of Marylanders have lost jobs, lost income, or closed their businesses over the past year. Many are still waiting for their unemployment checks from the state.
We cannot afford to wait another session to study the issue. We need to act now. That’s why HB565 The Medical Debt Protection Act is so important. It will:
- Require that patients are screened to see if they are eligible for free or reduced-cost care before sending a medical bill to debt collectors;
- Require hospitals implement income-based repayment plans of no more than 5% of monthly income for those patients that don’t qualify for free care but cannot afford to pay their medical bill;
- Prohibit garnishing wages of any patient who qualified for free or reduced-cost care;
- Prohibit putting a lien on the home of a patient to collect medical debt;
- Prohibit any lawsuits for medical debts $1000 or less.
The Insurance and Pharmaceutical Subcommittee is now working to amend the legislation to vote on it. Unfortunately, the amended version -amended to reflect the Maryland Hospital Association’s position-weakens the important protections described above. I am at the table, along with our End Medical Debt Maryland colleagues, to press for the strongest possible bill.
Now I need YOU to help us move a strong bill forward. Thanks to YOU and so many other MCRC supporters, legislators know that their constituents are calling, emailing, and watching their actions.
For more on consumer issues related to health care, follow Andy Spears