July 21, 2024

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Most Americans want Washington to offer medical debt relief

2 min read

Janille Williams wants to buy a house someday — but first, he has to pay down tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt.

“I was hospitalized for a blood infection for three months more than ten years ago, and the bill was for more than $300,000,” said Williams, 38, a Fairbanks, Alaska, resident who works as a retail sales manager for AT&T. “I was in the middle of changing jobs, the only time in my life I haven’t had health insurance.”

When the bill went to collections, the debt was eventually lowered to about $50,000, he said, an amount that was still not feasible for him to pay.

Medical debt forgiveness, a priority for some lawmakers and advocates, would make a substantial difference to Williams’ credit report and stop the calls from collections agencies.

“They don’t give you a choice in the hospital. ‘If you leave, you’ll die,’ they told me. I didn’t feel like dying,” Williams said. “I don’t think anyone should have to go into financial ruin to live.”

Many Americans agree, according to a new poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. According to the survey, about half of Americans say it’s extremely or very important for the U.S. government to provide debt relief for those who have yet to pay off medical treatments.

Especially since the pandemic, an increasing number of cities and states — including Connecticut, New York City, New Orleans and Chicago — are implementing their own versions of medical debt forgiveness. The Biden administration recently announced a proposed rule that would wipe consumer medical debt off most credit reports.

The poll found that support for medical debt forgiveness is particularly high in cases where a patient experienced health care fraud. About two-thirds of U.S. adults support medical debt forgiveness if the individual has, for example, been wrongfully billed for…

Cora Lewis, Linley Sanders, The Associated Press

2024-06-18 04:59:56

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