A group of Senate Democrats are calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to prohibit reporting medical debt collection tradelines to credit bureaus, further limiting the number of communication attempts beyond what is included in Regulation F, and know whether a consumer is appealing the denial of coverage with his or her health insurance carrier, applying for financial assistance, or disputing a charge with a provider so the collector can refrain from collecting on those accounts. The Senators sent a letter to Dave Uejio, the CFPB’s Acting Director with those requests — and others — on Friday.
“We urge your agency to revisit this issue of medical debt as being reported for delinquency can have long-lasting implications for a person’s economic security, such as the ability to obtain loans for housing and cars,” wrote the Senators, including Sen. Chris Murphy [D-Conn.], Sen. Chris Van Hollen [D-Md.], Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.], Sen. Cory Booker [D-N.J.], Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-Conn.], and Sen. Tammy Baldwin [D-Ill.].
Medical debt has become a political hot potato in recent months, with a number of states and Congress enacting — or seeking to enact — legislation aimed at how those debts are collected. Multiple published media reports about healthcare providers filing lawsuits against individuals seeking to recover unpaid medical debts, set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, has helped fuel lawmakers’ desire to enact laws regulating how healthcare debts are collected.
Bills have been introduced or enacted in Nevada, Oklahoma, Maryland, Ohio, Colorado, and New Mexico that take different attacks at medical debt collection. At the same time, a bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that aims to amend the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act with respect to how medical debts are collected.
“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the many cracks that remain in our health care system into which people fall, sometimes plummet, regarding debt incurred for their health care,” the Senators wrote. “As recently as a few weeks ago, a news outlet reported that a major hospital sued thousands of patients while the pandemic was ravaging their families and livelihoods. It is timely to reexamine the burden of medical consumer debt.”