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  • Caitlin DeLuca

One Medical Bill Away From Ruin: How the Legislature Plans to Tackle Medical Debt

Maine’s healthcare costs are through the roof, and it’s leaving too many working families in dire financial straits.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year, more than four out of ten Mainers have medical debt in their household, and more than two-thirds say they are just one major medical bill away from financial ruin. 

When patients seek care from hospitals or healthcare facilities, unfair billing practices ensure that these families are left in the lurch. 

There are healthcare facilities that are quick to send bills to collections, sometimes with little room to discuss payment, let alone pay the bill back in full. Doing this damages a patient’s credit score, making it hard for them to not only seek financial support but to qualify for important necessities, like buying a car or qualifying for a mortgage.

There are also income-eligible Mainers who qualify for free care, but hospitals do not inform them when they do. Hospitals and healthcare facilities do not always offer fair terms for payment plans, either; often they are unrealistic and unreasonably expensive. 

All of this puts people in impossible positions, where they’re forced to make choices between paying their rent or their medical bills. Some even ration their medication or go without care entirely, to avoid crippling medical debt. This is dangerous. 

  • Expand eligibility for free healthcare services for lower-income Mainers, and require hospitals to inform patients when they qualify;

  • Require hospitals to offer payment plans with terms of at least 2 years to pay off the bill, with monthly payments never exceeding three percent of a patient's income;

  • Require hospitals to provide a 240-day grace period to pay back the debt, and prevent them from selling debt to collections agencies, suing patients to recover debt or withholding services until debts are cleared during that period.

This bill is an important step in ensuring that hospitals and healthcare facilities are obligated to provide fair billing practices for all patients, and free care to those who need it most. Mainers shouldn’t be buried under unbearable medical debt, all for seeking the care they need to be healthy. Sign this petition to tell your representatives to pass LD 1955!

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