Medical Debt Disproportionally Impacts Black Americans, Hospital Offer Little Help
By Consumers For Quality Care, on December 8, 2021
Americans are saddled with $140 billion in medical debt, but Census data shows that more Black American households have medical debt than white households, and oftentimes they are not notified of their legal rights to help pay those debts down, according to Bloomberg.
Tango Walker, a Black mother of five, owes $28,000 in medical debt. Even with insurance through her employer, she still struggles to afford care. Last year, her wages were garnished with no prior notice. Walker was never offered financial assistance even though nonprofit hospitals are required to publicize charity-care policies to all consumers.
The article notes that hospitals must do more to “determine how to screen patients for financial assistance and how to respond when a bill goes unpaid,” instead of perpetuating “harsh billing practices,” such as “garnishing wages, charging high interest rates, placing liens on homes, and suing patients,” tactics which disproportionally affect Black Americans.
Estimates show that these aggressive billing practices don’t even account for one percent of a hospital’s total revenue. “These are already people who’ve been struggling to pay,” says Jenifer Bosco, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center who co-wrote proposed legislation to strengthen protections for patients. “It’s not the way the hospitals are balancing their budgets.”
CQC urges hospitals to put a stop to predatory billing practices that disproportionally impact communities of color and work with lawmakers to ensure quality, affordable access to medical care for all.