Sanders Bill Calls For Moratorium on Medical Debt Collection Until COVID-19 Vaccine is ‘Widely Available’

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], introduced a bill on Friday that, among other provisions, would call for a moratorium on the collection of all medical debts nationwide until a vaccine for COVID-19 is “widely available to the public.”

A copy of the bill, called the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, can be accessed by clicking here.

The bill was introduced on the same day that the House of Representatives passed The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act, a $3 trillion stimulus package that would give individuals the right to obtain a forbearance on any debt simply by asking for it, while also providing debt collectors with the opportunity to obtain “long-term, low-cost” loans to cover any losses caused by the forbearances.

Sen. Sanders’s bill calls for a an immediate halt to all medical debt collection, including activities carried out by third parties, for any healthcare items and services that are medically necessary or appropriate for the maintenance of health or for the diagnosis, treatment, or
rehabilitation of a health condition for any resident of the United States. Medical debts that are incurred related to treating an individual for coronavirus would be immune from collection forever.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-N.Y.], Sen. Edward Markey [D-Mass.], Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], Sen. Cory Booker [D-N.J.], Sen. Jeff Merkley [D-Ore.], and Sen. Kamala Harris [D-Calif.].

“No family should go bankrupt because they had the misfortune of getting sick — especially as our nation continues to grapple with a dangerous pandemic,” said Sen. Merkley, in a statement. “In a pandemic, every one of us is better off if someone who’s sick can go to the doctor and get care as soon as they need it. The time is now for Congress to eliminate out-of-pocket health costs for essential care and halt the collection of medical debts, to help everyone get the care they need and to help our country get through this pandemic.”

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