Source: NC Newsline
Aggressive medical debt collection tactics could soon be severely limited in North Carolina after a bill passed a Senate committee earlier this month and continues to move through the legislature, NC Newsline reported.
Senate Bill 321, the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, would prohibit medical debt collectors from foreclosing on property or garnishing wages. The bill would also require large health care facilities with annual revenues of at least $20 million – such as hospitals, outpatient clinics and ambulatory surgical centers – to post price information on their websites to ensure that patients know of their financial assistance policies. The bill also caps the interest on medical debt.
This type of legislation is sorely needed in North Carolina. According to NC Newsline, the Urban Institute reported last year that, in 2021, counties in North Carolina have some of the highest shares of adults who can’t pay their medical bills on time.
Greene (2nd), Lenoir (3rd) and Anson (5th) counties all ranked in the top five in the nation for having the highest levels of medical debt. About 45% of adults in Greene and Lenoir counties had medical debt in collections, including 52% of communities of color in Lenoir County.
NC Newsline reported that most of the counties across the country that had the highest medical debt were in states that had not passed Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion was passed in North Carolina and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper, but it doesn’t take effect until a state budget is approved.
Senate Bill 321 still has a long way to go in the legislature – it must still go through three more Senate committees before even getting a vote in the full Senate.