The Nebraska legislature’s Judiciary Committee yesterday held a hearing on a bill that would prohibit the collect of certain medical debts — for those who are victims of crimes, as the bill appears to be gaining momentum.
The bill, if enacted, would make it a crime to send accounts to collections for medical debts incurred by those who were victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. The state already has established a fund to pay for medical treatment for those individuals, but during the hearing it was revealed that half of the applications that are made to the fund are denied, forcing the applicants, who have already been victimized, to appeal. The state has already enacted a law that allows healthcare providers to directly bill the fund for payment when treating individuals who are victims of crimes.
The bill was introduced earlier this month by state Sen. John Fredrickson of Omaha.
There have been numerous reports through the years in the mainstream media regarding individuals who are victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse and end up having their medical bills sent to a collection agency. Some hospitals have been subject to enforcement actions for failing to take the necessary precautions to make sure victims aren’t billed.
Sen. Fredrickson said his bill aims to close a gap that has allowed victims to have their debts sent to collection when that should not be happening. “[The] Legislature has committed already to the survivors that we will not keep them financially liable for seeking medical services as a result of their injuries,” Fredrickson said, according to a published report. “And what we’ve learned is that there’s still a gap in this actually happening, and we are still seeing survivors that are set being sent to debt collectors.”