A bill is progressing through the Maryland legislature that, if passed, would require the state to develop a process that identifies individuals who paid for hospital services that may have otherwise qualified for free care under existing state law and reimburse those individuals for the money they paid.
If enacted, the process of identifying those who paid, but were otherwise entitled to free care, would date back to 2017, which could include debts that were placed with third-party collection agencies. A state-issued report released back in 2020 concluded that 60% of patients who were eligible for free healthcare and who instead charged had their debts placed with a collection agency. The total amount of the debts incurred by those individuals is estimated to be $120 million.
A copy of the bill, HB0694, is available by clicking here. If enacted, the bill would go into effect on July 1.
The bill in the state House by a vote of 131 to two in late March and passed in the Senate — with amendments — last week by a vote of 47 to nothing. The House is now reviewing the amended version, and if approved, the bill would head to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for approval.
A consumer advocacy called the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition is lobbying in favor of the bill’s passage.
Last year, the Maryland legislature enacted a bill that barred hospitals from selling unpaid debts and placing certain debts with third-party agencies, prohibited reporting debts to credit reporting agencies for 180 days after the initial bill was provided, and expand their financial assistance policies.