Recent stories have come out in the news about sick patients being harassed in hospitals – even the emergency room – by debt collectors trying to collect on debts, even if it means getting in the way of them receiving medical treatment. These appalling acts are just some of the abuses that many consumers have had to face because of the debt collection industry.
But reform may be on the way, because Senator Franken (D-MN) has introduced S. 3350, also known as the End Debt Collection Abuse Act. This bill would protect patients from being aggressively targeted on outstanding medical bills and would protect all consumers from some of the worse abuses of the debt collection industry.
Here are some of the key protections in the bill:
- Collectors can’t harass patients in the hospital over debts – this includes emergency rooms and delivery rooms.
- Collectors can’t withhold treatment before a debt is paid.
- Collectors have to tell patients about options for helping repay medical debts, such as charity care, payment plans or other discounts.
- For all debts, collectors must include more information in their initial notices to consumers, including the name of the original creditor and an itemized accounting of the amount claimed. This protection is especially important in cases where the consumer is being contacted by a collector that purchased the debt from the original creditor.
- Collectors can’t seek an arrest warrant to try and collect on a debt.
To read our 2011 report detailing debt collection abuses, with stories from real consumers, click here.
For more information about your rights when dealing with debt collectors, click here.