Federal agencies are trying new ways to ease the burden of health debt: Shots

This week Vice President Kamala Harris announced new efforts the Biden administration is working on to help people in the United States struggling with health debt.

Images by Anna Moneymaker / Getty

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Images by Anna Moneymaker / Getty

This week Vice President Kamala Harris announced new efforts the Biden administration is working on to help people in the United States struggling with health debt.

Images by Anna Moneymaker / Getty

Vice President Kamala Harris announced this week that the federal government is working on new measures to help people affected by health debt.

Gathered with cabinet members and other government officials at the Palace, Harris spoke about the importance and fear of health credit.

Many people are “rushed to the hospital because their appendix is ​​broken and because they have fallen so badly and they are paying the bill years later,” Harris said in a statement in the Fortress.

“Parents who are sitting in a hospital car are afraid to take their child through those glass windows of the emergency room because they know if they walk through those glass windows, it might be possible. they could lose thousands of dollars that they didn’t have… “

The leadership’s innovations could help ease the burden of medical debt on Americans – they won’t do anything to prevent Americans from having to pay high health bills. they can pay in advance, said Jenifer Bosco, an employment lawyer at National. Consumer Law Center, a non -profit organization that supports property protection for low -income people.

Bosco’s company has been working to combat “abusive and abusive” medical debt collection for some time. NPR asked Bosco for his opinion on the actions announced by the Prison, and to explain what the aid was and what was missing.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

What’s your response to the Press Medical Credit Report and what areas do you think will help consumers with debt?

I was very happy to see this announcement and to see all the other things that the pilot did. I think they did a good job of figuring out what could be done with the power of the executive to really help the customers.

It’s great to see that the CFPB, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has stepped up and is taking a closer look at health credit. And they just released a report earlier this year on medical debt which found that there is about $ 88 billion of health credit on credit reports in this country, and the burden is falling sharply. on black families and Latino families.

One of the things that can really help consumers here is to change the rules about reporting medical credit, and then the announcement from the three major credit card companies that they significantly reduce the amount of health credit on credit reports.

When medical debt is shown on credit reports and credit scores, it does not make a prediction of what people’s debt will be like because it is not the same as regular sales, it is a separate company. Sometimes it’s the collection plan – debt collectors know people want to clear this from their credit report. [so they] to pay for the cancellation of the medical debt.

So I think it’s good news that most people who buy medical credit are not penalized for reporting this on their credit report.

Of course, just because it doesn’t show up on your credit report doesn’t mean you shouldn’t borrow. There is also the problem of consumers being able to pay for health care. So it doesn’t end the health debt, but it does end some of the consequences associated with it.

You can guide us through some of the great examples announcement of this week?

First, the CFPB issued a bulletin to credit union and credit reporting agencies about new safeguards against the surprise lawsuit – the No Surprises Act – reminding credit reporting agencies loans and debt collectors need to be very careful that they are secured. They do not attempt to collect debts prohibited by the No Surprises Act.

Veterans Affairs has announced a plan to streamline health credit forgiveness – those details have not been released. The VA also announced that it has changed its approach to reporting medical credit for credit reporting purposes in the future.

The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that they will vigorously enforce the No Surprises Act, which protects consumers from financial risk factors. It doesn’t catch every kind of surprise money. for example, [it] It has no protections in relation to ground ambulance services, but in general, it is a very good development.

Another ad that is very encouraging to see is the [Federal Housing Finance Agency] He announced that he was looking at the credit models that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would use for lending and that medical debt would not be counted on consumers as it had in the past.

Your company has solved the problem of debts and antiquities before – can you explain more about what happened before?

We are learning and driving to look at how much health debt will be borne by the federal government. Are there ways we can be forgiven? And so we’re really excited to see that the VA is doing some work to do.

The soldiers [Health] The Administration has announced to stop reporting on about 90% of the health loans they previously reported. They promise to do that and fix the process so people can use their health debt forgiven. There is a management process to do that for those struggling with VA medical debt, but it is very difficult and it is not clear how to get involved.

It’s great to see that the federal government is taking those steps to say the least: this is a place where we can help people who have medical debt and forgive them in certain conditions.

The government has also announced that it will collect and disseminate data to suppliers with critical financial transactions. I know the data is too hard now?

We don’t know what the country is doing. How many people are facing debt claims, rent payments, claims on their homes due to health debt? We do not know of any hospitals that agree to collect debts, sell credit or consent to the use of these important collection practices.

I think it would be great for HHS to start demanding that level of reporting and really understand how hospitals and debt collection work. It can give us a better picture of what customers are seeing and figure out how to fix some of the worst aspects of this problem.

Often people who are sued for medical bills or their bills – it’s not that they don’t want to pay their health bills, they can’t pay. And in many cases, they are patients who are eligible for financial assistance or some other form of financial assistance, such as Medicaid, and they are ending a claim. This can help with the problem of: How well are we doing in monitoring low -income patients to identify other resources to help them pay? their health costs?

It’s also important to try to get the nature of these debt collections down to the hospital’s bottom line, because from the smaller states where the evidence is available … it’s not something the hospital can afford. balances its income at 0.2% as they collect rent payments and debt collection claims. So I think it’s important to have that information.

In addition to these recent announcements, what other policy changes could exacerbate the health debt risk?

You can put in a lot of credit card protection for your customers, which will help when you get your medical debt. But I think we also need to look: What can we do to keep the medical debt from going up in the first place?

While this is not a common purchase law issue, I think that increasing Medicaid in states where Medicaid has not been increased is a great help to residents in those states, where credit levels are rising. health. And there are also states in the Southeast – states with higher black populations than most states that have increased Medicaid – so racial inequality continues to increase in that area.

Under the Affordable Care Act, there is a requirement that nonprofit hospitals provide financial assistance to low -income patients. That’s enforced by the IRS, but it’s hard to fix the problem. And we’ve heard a lot of hospitals have a financial aid policy in the books, but don’t do well in telling patients this is an option.

Here’s another way to get to the root of the problem: Identify patients who can’t pay and instead of pursuing them for years for medical bills that can’t be obtained, [ask] What can we do to help these people?

There are other things that can be done. The CFPB is considering whether health debt should be included in credit reports. There may be some strong protections against debt collection for certain types of debts, as seen in certain laws relating to COVID-19 custody. Should special rules be in place to prevent aggressive collection practices for COVID-19 credit? Or is it prohibited to sell credit to creditors if it is a wood debt?

Lastly, I think the health credit problem will not end if at some point in our future, we use some form of one-stop payment or the Medicare-for-All system. But I think it’s a blue sky feeling right now.

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