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  • Caitlin DeLuca

Maine Legislature Offers New Way to Reign in Medical Debt

Every person gets sick or injured at some point in their lives. When these events are unexpected, they can saddle people with medical debt that’s difficult to manage.

Nearly half of Mainers carry some amount of medical debt, and over two-thirds say they are just one major medical bill away from financial ruin. Many people have to make difficult decisions between taking care of themselves and addressing other necessary expenses like their mortgage, car payments, or even groceries.

Exacerbating the problem are debt collection practices. If a patient cannot pay off their full bill within a brief period, hospitals will sell medical debt to collections agencies, often at a lower price than the total owed. Nearly one in three Mainers were contacted by a collection agency within the past two years, with 83% saying it was because of a hospital bill. Many of those contacted aren’t given a chance to discuss a payment plan with the hospital before then. 

The Maine Legislature is taking steps to address the imposed burden of medical debt with bills like LD 2115. Introduced by Senator Mike Tipping, the bill would bar hospitals from selling medical debt to collection agencies without first offering to sell it to the consumer at the same discounted rate. 

By not immediately selling to collection agencies, patients would have the chance to pay off that debt faster and with fewer hurdles. No more being hounded by collection agencies before there is even a fair chance to pay off the bill. And no more risk of damaged credit, which hurts Mainers’ chances of buying a home or a car. 

No one should have to worry about going bankrupt to get the care they need. That’s why we call on the Legislature to pass LD 2115.

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