Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on Impact of Medical Debt

The Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday that will hear testimony related to the “impact of the growing burden of medical debt,” likely a response to a number of reports and activities detailing the size and scope of medical debt being carried by individuals in the United States.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday, March 29 at 10am ET and can be watched via livestream by clicking here.

To date, a handful of witnesses have been announced. They are:

  • Robyn M. King of Ohio
  • Emily Stewart, Executive Director, Community Catalyst
  • Dr. Benedic N. Ippolito, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
  • Professor David A. Hyman, Scott K. Ginsburg Professor Of Health Law & Policy, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Berneta L. Haynes, Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center

Earlier this year, Dr. Ippolito released a study with two colleagues from the American Enterprise Institute on health insurance, medical debt, and the financial well-being of consumers. The abstract of that study concluded:

“We study the financial protection provided by health insurance through two natural experiments — the Affordable Care Act’s under 26 provision and Medicare eligibility. In both cases, the coverage expansion sharply reduces medical debt in collections for consumers within the affected ages but does not systematically improve credit outcomes not directly related to medical care. This is consistent with the infrequent repayment rate and lack of persistence on credit reports that we document for medical collections, which mute a key channel through which reductions in medical collections could directly affect the other financial outcomes studied here. These results help clarify the role of health insurance in broader financial health and suggest that, at least among the populations studied here, medical debts in collection may often be a symptom rather than a cause of wider financial distress as measured on credit reports.”

When the three major credit reporting agencies announced last week that they were going to be making changes to how medical debts were reported on consumers’ credit reports, Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio], the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement:

“Finally, millions of Americans will no longer have to worry about medical debt preventing them from getting a job, renting an apartment, buying a car, or getting a mortgage. No family should have their financial future ruined because they or a family member got sick. Today’s announcement shows what happens when we have a CFPB that takes real action for consumers. I look forward to continue working with the CFPB to address the growing burden of medical debt, protect working families, and hold bad actors accountable.”

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