Today marks Opening Day for the Minnesota legislature’s 2024 session and the governor of the state has announced his intention to back a bill that would remove interest on medical debt and ban hospitals from withholding care to patients who have outstanding debts.
The measure — the Minnesota Debt Fairness Act — is set to be introduced by state Sen. Liz Boldon, a Democrat, who also happens to be a nurse. A similar measure is expected to be introduced in the state House by Rep. Liz Reyer, also a Democrat.
Along with prohibiting interest on medical debt and preventing healthcare providers from refusing to treat patients who have outstanding debts, the bill is also expected to ban the reporting of medical debt to the credit reporting agencies, prohibit healthcare providers from using an individual’s income tax refund to repay outstanding debts, and ban healthcare providers from charging consumer fees for coding errors. It would also end the ability of healthcare providers to transfer medical debt to a patient’s spouse.
Also endorsing the bill is the Attorney General of Minnesota, who said his office has been working on the legislation for months.
Both the governor and the lieutenant governor of Minnesota shared their personal stories about the impact that medical debt has had on them during a press conference last week to share their endorsement of the proposed legislation.
“Credit card debt to buy a television is one thing. Debt because you had a heart attack, or were hit by a car, or have an illness is an entirely different thing,” said Gov. Tim Walz during the press conference. “And the idea that we’re charging massive interest on that, that we’re reporting it to the credit bureau and we’re destroying lives over it makes absolutely no sense.”