Faith Leaders to NYS Legislature: Take action to prevent medical debt
New York State Senators and Assembly Members
Health care is a human right - yet the U.S. health care system doesn't treat it that way. One of the consequences of our profit-driven system is that many people go into debt and face financial devastation because they needed medical care. From 2015-2020, New York's hospitals sued more than 53,000 people for medical debt.
Last year, the New York State Legislature passed two bills to help lift the burden of medical debt and this year, the End Medical Debt Campaign is calling on them to pass two other critical bills: the Ounce of Prevention Act and the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act.
The Ounce of Prevention Act (S1366/A6027) will help to prevent medical debt by making hospital financial assistance more accessible and ensuring that money allocated to hospitals for charity care is used for that purpose.
The Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act (S.4907/A6275) would protect New Yorkers from medical debt by prohibiting the reporting of medical bills to credit reporting agencies.
Making health care accessible to all is a moral issue. If you are a religious or faith leader in New York State, please sign the petition below to add your voice to the call for our legislators to take action this session to prevent medical debt.
You can also help build momentum for this campaign and the larger struggle for healthcare justice by holding an educational forum for members of your congregation/community to learn more about medical debt, healthcare justice, and how they can be involved. Please indicate if you're interested, and we'll follow up shortly!
New York State Senators and Assembly Members
From: Joe Celestin
As clergy and faith leaders from across New York State, we know intimately the toll that the high cost of medical care takes on our communities. Too many of our community members avoid or delay necessary medical treatment because of the cost, and too many who do receive care are then faced with overwhelming bills and debt. We are writing to urge you to take action to alleviate this unjust burden this session by preventing medical debt from impacting New Yorkers’ credit scores and reforming New York’s Hospital Financial Assistance law to ensure that hospital financial aid money gets to the patients who need it.
New York’s hospital prices are some of the highest in the nation and patients routinely struggle to pay their hospital bills. To help New York hospitals - all of which are non-profit charities - provide free or low-cost care, the state contributes 1.13 billion dollars to an Indigent Care Pool. However in the last five years, hospitals sued more than 52,000 patients, including at least 4,000 during the height of the pandemic. A random sample of thousands of these court files indicates that few patients were informed of or offered financial assistance. Many who were sued, including the 4,880 patients who had liens placed on their homes as a result of these lawsuits and thousands more whose wages have been garnished, likely qualified for hospital financial assistance but were not offered this help.
Enough is enough. Medical care is not a luxury, and it should never result in the financial devastation these patients experience.
We strongly urge you to sponsor and help pass the Ounce of Prevention Act (S1366/A6027) and the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act (S.4907/A6275) this session. The Ounce of Prevention Act will help to prevent medical debt by making hospital financial assistance more accessible and ensuring that money allocated to hospitals for charity care is used for that purpose. The Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act will protect New Yorkers from medical debt by prohibiting the reporting of medical bills to credit reporting agencies.
Each of our faiths holds in common a belief in the dignity of every human being. We also share the conviction that our society has a moral obligation to care for the most vulnerable among us and to ensure fairness in our economic and political institutions. Our current healthcare system is an affront to these shared values in the way that it pursues profit over the well-being of patients and our communities. The Ounce of Prevention Act and Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act will be important steps toward making sure medical care is accessible to patients, without sending them into debt. We ask that you prioritize passing this critical legislation this session.