ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Lawmakers are poised to pass a bill to protect Marylanders from medical debt and “predatory” collections practices.
The Medical Debt Protection Act of 2021 will look to prohibit hospitals or collections agencies from garnishing some people’s wages, placing a lien on person’s home and require hospitals to provide an affordable repayment plan.
National Nurses United, one of the largest unions in the country, found Maryland hospitals filed more than 145,000 lawsuits for more than $260 million in debt.
The union also found it led to thousands of people to go bankrupt, have their wages garnished and a lien placed on their home.
Ashley Esposito received a $2,000 hospital bill a year after she started receiving IVF treatments. The bill came a month before she gave birth.
She said she had no idea she was behind on payments until debt collectors came calling. Esposito said she has excellent health insurance and believed it covered the cost.
“We’re enjoying having this baby that we fought so hard for then all of a sudden we start getting collections calls and I'm sitting here like what’s going on,” she said.
The End Medical Debt Maryland Coalition is holding a rally on Saturday to voice their support for the legislation.
Valerie Hsu, who is a lead organizer in the group, said half of the lawsuits are for less than a $1,000–a practice she describes as predatory because it disproportionally impacts low income families and communities of colors.
“The bill will also includes provisions about notification process for hospitals understand they qualify for reduced cost care or for free care even,” she said.
She said this bill is the first step to protect Marylanders from being punished for seeking medical care.
“This is huge for thousands of Marylander who may fear pursing healthcare for fear of the cost,” Hsu said.
There’s two versions of the bill in the house and senate, which passed unanimously out of committee. They’ll be up for another vote soon. Lawmakers expect them to pass and become law.
“I do feel like doctors care for people now its time for their finance departments to do the same,” Esposito said.