Help with medical bills and debts in New York
Since 2006 New York has had laws in place that protect consumers from illegal and aggressive medical debt collection practices and also regulations that improve the state’s hospital charity care policies. The law applies for all general hospitals in New York. The programs and resources offered include those listed below.
- Health care providers and hospitals need to allow patients to pay for their medical bills and debts in negotiated installments. When a settlement is agreed to they can only charge a limited amount of interest on unpaid balances according to the law. In addition, and very importantly, both medical debt collectors and hospitals can’t increase the interest rate they charge on medical debt when someone misses a scheduled payment.
- Medical debt collectors, hospitals, and other health care providers cannot force the sale of a patient’s home, or foreclose on it, in order to collect an unpaid bill or debt. If a foreclosure is in process from this it needs to immediately stop.
- If a hospital outsources the collection to an outside agency, the medical debt collection agencies needs to obtain the hospital’s written consent prior to commencing any legal action on the patient.
- Collection activities are not permitted and are illegal against individuals who are eligible for Medicaid at the time of their health care service. Any debt collection practices need to stop.
- Hospitals need to have in place a sliding-scale payment schedule for both uninsured and low- to moderate income patients. All uninsured or low income families or individuals with household incomes that are below 300 percent of levels established by the federal government poverty scales are deemed eligible for one or more assistance programs that can assist them with paying bills, and providing free or discounted charity health care.
- If someone is at or below the federal poverty level, they receive free health care in New York.
- If you are slightly above the poverty level (up to 150%), you will be charged a sliding scale with a maximum cost of 20%.
- If your income is from 151 and 250 percent of government poverty levels, health care providers may charge sliding-scale fees of between 20 and 100 percent of what the hospital would have been paid for that service by the government.
- If a patients income is between 251 and 300 percent of federal government poverty levels hospitals can’t charge more than what the hospital would have been paid by its highest-volume payer, such as Medicaid or Medicare.
- In addition, hospitals need to notify patients of their facility about what financial assistance programs they offer upon a patients admission into the hospital, including medical bill consolidation. This information and the resources they offer needs to be listed on their bills and in various notices that are required to be posted around the hospital.
- Hospitals must lower their fees and charges for low and moderate income patients who lack health insurance, for those patients who have used up all of their their health insurance benefits and also for those who can demonstrate an inability to pay the hospital’s full bill. While according to New York laws and regulations, the medical care provider can still charge these patients for the health care services, however they can charge a maximum of up to the rate paid by the hospital’s highest-volume health insurer for reimbursement for the same services. In addition, the law strongly encourages that hospitals may choose to discount or reduce the copayments or deductibles that they collect from insured patients who can demonstrate an inability to pay for their medical bills and debts.