By Consumers for Quality Care, on May 10, 2023
North Carolina State Lawmakers are considering legislation both to safeguard consumers against high medical debt and to provide certain patients access to free health care, according to My Fox 8.
Referred to as the “Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act,” Senate Bill 321 and House Bill 367 seek to address the issue of rising medical debt and thereby protect families from bankruptcy and negative credit ratings in the process.
This legislation would establish financial assistance levels for low-income families, cap medical debt interest rates at 5 percent annually, promote price transparency in medical facilities, and limit certain debt collection practices. Additionally, it would require hospitals, particularly nonprofits, to offer free health care coverage for low-income families and provide discounted services for families burdened with significant debt.
Both the House and the Senate versions of this legislation enjoy broad bipartisan support, with Senate Bill 321 recently passing out of the Senate Health Committee.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell supports the legislative package. He recently called medical debt a “moral concern” and criticized nonprofit hospitals for reaping huge tax breaks while failing to devote adequate resources to charity care.
Nonprofit hospitals should not be in the business of making the medical debt crisis worse. They should uphold their end of the bargain to better serve their communities and deliver care for patients when they need it most.