When you or a family member is in need of medical treatment, your first concern is recovering from the injury or illness - everything else is less important. Often, the more serious the injury or ailment, the more expensive it will be to treat these conditions. Many people are unable to pay for the care they receive, especially if they do not have health insurance.
Medical debt is one of the major reasons that people end up filing for bankruptcy protection. It might take someone who is ill a long time to realize that their health is going to serious impact their financial future. By that point, they may have accumulated significant debt.
Some hospitals have started to become extremely aggressive in recovering some of the debt that is owed to them. They hire debt collection companies that practice questionable procedures in order to get people to pay up.
These hospitals may it appear as though they will refuse to provide emergency care unless the costs are paid for upfront. No payment, no treatment. Other hospitals may force patients going into surgery to pay before the surgery, sending in agents dressed in hospital scrubs to pressure the person into paying while they are awaiting the operation.
This can be very confusing and misleading to individuals that are depending upon the hospital to provide them with the care that is necessary. Senator Al Franken has recently proposed a bill that would ban companies from withholding emergency treatment in hospital emergency rooms if an individual has not prepaid for the services.
The bill would extend regulations recently proposed by the U.S. Department of Treasury. The Treasury rules only applied to treatment in non-profit hospital emergency rooms. These rules would also prohibit debt collection in any areas that might interfere with treatment.
Source: MPRNews "Franken measure would toughen patient debt collection rules" Elizabeth Stawicki, June 27, 2012.