Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Actions on Medical Debt
This week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a series of new actions to protect consumers and lessen the burden of medical debt on American families. According to the Administration, one-in-three adults in the U.S. have medical debt with implications on financial, physical, and mental health.
As part of the Administration’s efforts to strengthen access to affordable, quality health care coverage, Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled reforms across four areas to address the burden of medical debt. These actions include:
- Holding Providers and Collectors Accountable – Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has directed HHS to evaluate how providers’ billing practices impact access and affordability of care and the accrual of medical debt. HHS will request data from more than 2,000 providers on medical bill collection practices, lawsuits against patients, financial assistance, financial product offerings, and third-party contracting or debt buying practices. For the first time, HHS will weigh this information in grantmaking decisions, publish topline data and policy recommendations for the public, and share potential violations with relevant enforcement agencies. Separately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will investigate credit reporting companies and debt collectors that violate patient and family rights.
- Improving Government Underwriting Practices – The Biden-Harris Administration is providing guidance to all federal agencies to eliminate medical debt as a factor for underwriting in credit programs whenever possible and consistent with the law. Americans with medical debt can apply for a variety of public services and benefits, including from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Small Business Administration, without fear that medical debt will prevent them from accessing benefits.
- Supporting Veterans in Financial Hardship – The Department of Veterans Affairs has cancelled or refunded approximately $1 billion in copayments to over 1.5 million veterans since the beginning of the pandemic. The VA will additionally be streamlining its processes for medical debt relief and cease reporting unfavorable debt, including medical debt, to consumer reporting agencies.
- Helping Consumers Know Their Rights – The CFPB will ramp up its consumer education tools aimed at helping families navigate the medical billing landscape. A wide range of tools are already available from the CFPB, and additional tools and information will be made available.
Additional information from the Biden-Harris Administration is available here.