Laws and other consumer protections for medical debts.
Unfortunately many more individuals and families are struggling with paying their medical debt as well as other health care bills. Hundreds of thousands of people are declaring bankruptcy every year from an overwhelming amount of medical debts. The expenses that patients are incurring at their local hospital or medical provider continue to break the budgets of many families. There are countless examples of people struggling, even those with comprehensive health insurance.
There is some good news, and that is that some states have created laws as well as regulations to help people deal with the ever increasing health care costs, including hospital bills. Among other things these programs help protect patients from aggressive medical debt collectors and any potential illegal collection practices. They also try to ensure that families are not charged high interest rates when they can’t afford to immediately pay for their medical bills, they ensure that low to moderate income underinsured or uninsured patients are charged reasonable prices for their health care, and laws also provide assistance in addressing as well as stopping the practice of balance billing.
States offer protections from medical debt collection practices
Some state laws provide exemptions to families as well as individuals with medical debt that will in effect protect more of their incomes from the collection process. The goal is to balance the playing field between consumers and companies. The laws may also prevent them from losing their homes to unpaid medical bills.
Hospital bill and financial assistance laws
Several states have passed detailed, comprehensive laws that ensure struggling people can receive charity care if and when their income is low enough. This can also extend to patient’s that lack insurance. Charity care is a form of health care that is offered to lower income patients by medical providers and hospitals at greatly reduced prices or even for free. The state programs also control and limit hospitals’ billing as well as collection practices for those that qualify.
Fair prices for hospitals and debt collection laws
Many agreements were made between some governments and hospitals that operate in the state. There are rules as well as regulations that deal with their billing practices and charity care programs. They put into place regulations for debt collectors and the billing practices that may be in place by hospitals as well as doctors. You will find more information on your state below.
Protections against balance billing
Some states have begun to address the fairly new practice of balance billing. This practice is when insured patients receive expensive medical bills when they need to use an out-of-network provider for some reason. Laws are used to ensure that the costs charged to a patient are reasonable.
What happens is that those out-of-network health care providers are generally billing patients the difference between their own charges and what the patient’s health insurance plan reimburses them. So if your doctor or medical provider says the amount of care you received is valued at $900 but your health insurance plan only reimburses them $600, the difference of $300 is the balance. Some health care providers are now trying to get the patient to pay that $300. The practice is frowned upon, if not illegal.
This difference, or balance, is usually much more than the copayments or co-insurance a patient would be responsible for paying if they were to see in-network providers. This practice is called “balance billing” and many states laws are now making it illegal.
All of these are addressed in many states, and their are other rules too. Find more specific information on medical debt collection laws and programs for your state. Select your state below.
Additional states, click here.
Credit counseling services for illegal medical debt collection practices
Another option for patients is to contact a local or national non-profit credit counseling agency. Specialists from these companies are usually well informed of laws and medical billing regulations in their state. They can advise clients and also help them work on reducing the balance due on their unpaid bills. Click credit counseling from non-profits.
The bottom line is that many states have laws and regulations that provide residents with free or discounted charity health care. They also try to regulate the medical industry. The laws will also protect patients from illegal and / or aggressive medical debt collectors and agencies.