Collector - March 2020 - 42

GOVERNMENTAFFAIRS

Flawed Health Care Debt Restrictions
New medical debt legislation that advanced in the U.S. House of Representatives poses harm to accounts receivable
management companies, consumers and the economy.
By Leah Dempsey

F

or the past several years, Congress
has contemplated new legislation
concerning medical debt, and
ACA International has been engaged in
discussions with lawmakers about how to
approach this in a way that accounts for
the unique nature of medical debt, while
not creating unintended consequences for
consumers and the economy.
Unfortunately, legislation that advanced
in the House Financial Services Committee
in 2019, chaired by U.S. Rep. Maxine
Waters (D-Calif.), does not reflect some
of the more reasonable discussions about
how to address the challenges medical
debt can present. Instead the bill attempts
to implement drastic changes that would
ultimately harm the accounts receivable
management industry, consumers and the
economy as a whole.

42

HOUSE LEGISLATION
The House Financial Services Committee
held a markup for the Consumer
Protection for Medical Debt Collections
Act (H.R. 5330) in December 2019. This
bill was also part of a legislative package
reviewed at a September 2019 hearing
focused on debt collection. Two witnesses
testified on behalf of ACA International at
the hearing.
The legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep.
Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., would delay the
ability to report medical debt to credit
reporting agencies for a year and bans the
reporting of debt arising out of "medically
necessary procedures." Additionally, the
version of the legislation approved by the
committee at the December markup would
prohibit collecting medical debt for two
years. The bill originally delayed it for one

year, but an amendment was passed extending
it to two years.
These proposed restrictions swing
the pendulum way too far by chilling
communications about medical debt for an
extended period of time. They would also be
disastrous for medical providers and their
business partners in the accounts receivable
management industry.
However, perhaps even worse is that
these proposals pose harm to unsuspecting
consumers who could miss out on the
ability to seek charity care or other options
for addressing unaffordable medical debt.
Delaying collection efforts for years could also
cause problems with consumers' insurance
coverage. For example, consumers may
not catch billing and coding errors that
would impact reimbursement between their
insurance carrier and healthcare provider.

ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG


http://www.ACAINTERNATIONAL.ORG

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