N.Y. Legislature Passes Anti-Garnishment, Anti-Lien Bill For Certain Medical Debts

The New York Senate yesterday voted to approve a bill that would protect individuals from having liens placed on their primary residences and having their wages garnished to repay medical debts. The New York Assembly had already passed its version of the bill, and consumer advocates yesterday called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the proposed legislation into law.

S6522A passed in the Senate by a vote of 47 to 15. The bill prohibits nonprofit hospitals and healthcare providers from imposing and enforcing liens on a patient’s primary residence to satisfy judgments in medical debt lawsuits. It also prohibits nonprofit hospitals and healthcare providers from securing wage garnishments to satisfy judgments in medical debt lawsuits.

“This is a major victory for patients who deserve protection against predatory medical debt collection practices that contribute to housing insecurity and jeopardize their physical and fiscal health,” said Community Service Society, an organization that has been advocating for state laws aimed at medical debt collection in New York. The group is pushing a package of bills in the New York legislature.

According to an analysis conducted by CSS, nonprofit hospitals filed 4,800 liens against patients’ homes in 2017 and 2018, while also pointing out that garnishments tend to impact low-wage workers more than those with higher incomes, according to a published report. The report also points out that 52,000 New Yorkers were sued by hospitals for unpaid medical debts between 2015 and 2020.

One hospital noted that since the analysis was released, they have stopped filing lawsuits and seeking liens on property as a means of recovering unpaid medical debts.

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