Bill Introduced in Illinois to Ease Medical Debt Burden

The Illinois legislature is considering a bill that would require hospitals screen individuals without health insurance before initiating any collection activity while also prohibiting the sale of medical debt. To help advance the legislation and bring attention to the medical debt problem in Illinois, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights yesterday released a report, “Crisis in the Shadows: Medical Debt in Illinois.”

A copy of the report can be accessed by clicking here.

HB 2719, which would amend the Fair Patient Billing Act, was introduced by Rep. Dagmara Avelar, who was present yesterday at a press conference announcing the release of the report from the ICIRR. The bill defines medical debt as any debt arising from the receipt of health care services. Hospitals — and any third-party entities that engage in billing activity on behalf of a hospital — would not be able to offer a payment plan without first exhausting all discounts available under the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act. The bill also provides a private right of action to individuals and allow them to recover damages if there is a violation of the bill.

“It’s a common sense solution that protects community members from unnecessary medical bills and also ensures that hospitals are paid through programs that already exist,” Avelar said at the press conference about her proposed legislation. “No one should have to choose between food or utilities and paying medical bills.”

About 40% of all Illinoisans are carrying some amount of healthcare debt, according to the report, with the majority of those individuals being under the age of 49. Minorities are also more likely to have unpaid medical bills, according to the report.

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