Hey Senate Finance: End medical debt lawsuits today!

Urge the Senate Finance Committee to pass a STRONGER version of the Medical Debt Protection Act (SB 514)

🚨 [Important Note: If you’ve sent a letter here already, do it again! The situation is changing quickly, and the email template has been updated to reflect the bill’s current status.] 🚨

On Thursday, February 25, the Senate Finance Committee heard SB 514, The Medical Debt Protection Act 2021. The 11 members of the committee have yet to move this bill, saying they would wait to see what happens with HB 565, the bill’s cross-file in the House. We anticipate a House floor vote on a weakened version of the bill will take place by Monday, March 22.

So, now it’s time for the Senate to step up and take the lead to protect working families and ensure no one loses their home, their wages, or their savings because of hospital medical debt. The Senate can pass a stronger version of the bill, forcing the two chambers to reconcile their versions and restore key patient protections through conference.

Would you take 2 minutes to send a letter to members of the Senate Finance Committee? 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 Senate Finance Committee.

Background: What is SB 514?

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:

  • Prohibit hospitals from suing patients for medical debts of $1000 or less;

  • Prohibit hospitals from garnishing wages of individuals who should have qualified for free or reduced-cost care;

  • Prohibit liens against a home as well as prohibit the use of body attachment warrants to collect a hospital medical debt;

  • Require hospitals to create income-based repayment plans before sending patient debts to collection;

  • 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.

Read the bill in its current form here

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.

We need YOUR help to end medical debt lawsuits in Maryland. Contact the Senate Finance Committee today and urge them to vote YES on SB 514 with no weakening amendments.