Biden Administration Urged to Take More Aggressive Steps to Relieve Medical Debt

by | Mar 7, 2023 | Health

Dozens of advocates for patients and consumers, citing widespread harm caused by medical debt, are pushing the Biden administration to take more aggressive steps to protect Americans from medical bills and debt collectors.

In letters to the IRS and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the groups call for new federal rules that among other things would prohibit debt for medically necessary care from appearing on consumer credit reports.

Advocates also want the federal government to bar nonprofit hospitals from selling patient debt or denying medical care to people with past-due bills, practices that remain widespread across the U.S., KHN found.

And the groups are pressing the IRS to crack down on nonprofit hospital systems that withhold financial assistance from low-income patients or make aid cumbersome to get, another common obstacle KHN documented.

“Every day people are having to make choices about housing and clothing and food because of medical debt,” said Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst, a Boston nonprofit leading the effort. “It’s really urgent the Biden administration take action to put protections in place.”

Among the more than 50 groups supporting the initiative are national advocates such as the National Consumer Law Center, the Arthritis Foundation, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Nationwide, 100 million people have health care debt, according to a KHN-NPR investigation, which has documented a crisis that is driving Americans from their homes, draining their savings, and preventing millions from accessing care they need.

While some of the debt appears on credit reports, much of it is hidden elsewhere as credit card balances, loans from relatives, or payment plans to hospitals and other medical …

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