Dear HGO Committee: End medical debt lawsuits in Maryland now!
Urge the House Health & Government Operations Committee to vote YES on HB 565, The Medical Debt Protection Act
On Tuesday February 16, the House Health & Government Operations (HGO) Committee heard HB 565, The Medical Debt Protection Act 2021.
After the hearing, we sent 83 letters to the 24 members of the committee, urging them to put forth a favorable report on the legislation and send it onward in the lawmaking process without adding any weakening amendments.
HOWEVER, as of March 8, 2021, an HGO subcommittee has amended the bill past the point of recognition.
Would you take 2 minutes to send a letter to members of the HGO Committee, demanding that they restore the key provisions of HB 565? All you need to do is:
1. Fill out the form to the right with your information
2. [Optional] Customize the pre-written letter template we've prepared for you, explaining why you think this bill is important for Maryland families
3. Hit send
And that's it! Your letter will be automatically sent to all members of the HGO Committee.
Background: What is HB 565?
Over the past 10 years, Maryland hospitals filed 145,746 lawsuits against former patients to collect hospital medical debt. The median amount owed was $944. These lawsuits were three times as likely to be filed in a low-income community as a wealthy community.
This critical piece of legislation will:
Expand availability of free or reduced-cost care so patients qualify for up to 240 days after the treatment, to account for changed financial circumstances;
Require hospitals to create income-based repayment plans before sending patient debts to collection;
Prohibit liens against a home as well as prohibit the use of body attachment warrants to collect a hospital medical debt;
Prohibit hospitals from garnishing wages of individuals who should have qualified for free or reduced-cost care;
Prohibit hospitals from suing patients for medical debts of $1000 or less.
The hospitals in Maryland and their highly-paid lobbyists want to continue to sue and take homes, wages, and savings from working families in Maryland in order to increase their revenue. The Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) is opposing this bill even though an independent health economist has demonstrated that the financial loss to hospitals per year should this bill pass could be only ~$7,000!
Context: Why now?
In a statewide poll commissioned by End Medical Debt Maryland's coalition partner, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, we learned:
12% of Marylanders indicate they or someone in their home has a medical debt they are unable to pay
Three times as many African-American households (21%) are struggling to pay medical debts as white households
45% of African-American households would have to use their credit cards or be unable to pay a $500 medical bill compared to 18% of white household
39% of Maryland families are struggling economically and having trouble making ends meet. Since the onset of COVID-19 and the accompanying economic recession, up to 12 million individuals nationally may have lost their employer-based health care. Thousands of Marylanders have lost jobs, had their hours reduced, or lost their businesses over the past year.
Meanwhile, we are learning that Marylanders who survive COVID may suffer long-term effects including heart disease, lung disease, and dysautonomia. Health care demands may grow to meet the needs of COVID survivors.
It’s time for Maryland to take the lead protecting working families and ensuring that no one loses their home, their wages, or their savings because of a hospital medical debt.