The Oregon House of Representatives yesterday passed a bill that would alter the amount of interest that a healthcare facility or debt collector can charge on unpaid medical debt, ensure that collectors are following state collection guidelines when collecting on medical debt, and open up charity care and financial assistance to more low-income individuals.
The bill — House Bill 3076 — passed by a vote of 39 to 21 and now moves to the Oregon Senate for consideration.
“Medical debt can force the families burdened with it into generational poverty,” said Rep. Marty Wilde, a co-sponsor of the House Bill, in a published report. “Bankruptcy and poverty should not go hand-in-hand with receiving medically necessary care.”
Under the proposed legislation, the interest rate that can be charged on unpaid medical debt would be capped at 5% per year, unless a judgment has been entered against an individual, at which point the interest rate may be increased.
The bill would also alter the sliding scale of adjusting a patient’s cost based on his or her income relative to the federal poverty level. Currently, hospitals and healthcare facilities only have to offer a sliding scale discount for individuals who earn between 200% and 400% of the federal poverty guidelines. The bill would spell out that the discount be 75% for individuals who earn between 200% and 300%, 50% for individuals who earn between 300% and 350%, and 25% for individuals who earn between 350% and 400%.