By Consumers for Quality Care, on November 29, 2023
A new Minnesota law forbids hospitals from collecting medical debt from low-income consumers until they have checked to see if they are eligible for financial assistance, according to CBS News Minnesota.
State Senator Liz Boldon, DFL-Rochester, applauded the measure, which will help those that otherwise may incur the financial hardships associated with medical debt. “It has far-reaching impacts so if we can help those families — if we can prevent some of that harm by just providing information — it very much feels like the right thing to do,” said Senator Boldon.
Yolanda Pierson and her husband incurred over $7,000 in medical expenses to treat their son. They fell behind on their bills and eventually were sued over the medical debt. Here’s the rub: Pierson’s family was eligible for financial assistance, but no one at the hospital informed her or her husband of their options. “That’s disheartening as a parent,” said Pierson. “We focused on saving our son’s eye and didn’t fully understand the assistance available to us and no one at the clinic explained that to us.”
Under the new law, hospitals must screen consumers to determine whether they qualify for any financial assistance, including charity care, which nonprofit hospitals are required to offer as a condition for their tax-exempt status. Until that screening occurs, hospitals are barred from sending out medical debt to collection agencies. Lawmakers hope that these measures will help to allay the medical debt crisis, which affects millions of Americans.
CQC applauds these efforts, but urges lawmakers to hold health care providers responsible for informing patients that they may be eligible for financial assistance.