Bills introduced to protect patients by reforming Maryland’s epidemic of medical debt lawsuits

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Annapolis, Md. – In early February, Maryland state legislators, working with registered nurses, community activists, and consumer advocates, introduced bills in both the Senate and House of Delegates to reform current practices of hospitals suing low-income patients for medical bills that they likely qualify for financial help to pay, and to ensure Marylanders receive the hospital care they need without suffering disastrous financial consequences. Today a coalition of groups issued a new report titled, “Preying on Patients: Maryland’s not-for-profit hospitals and medical debt lawsuits,” which documents the severity of the problem which demands the need for these reforms.

“My duty as a nurse is to take care of my patients, at the bedside and beyond,” said Claudine Castano, an RN at Johns Hopkins Hospital, whose parent corporation, Johns Hopkins Health System, was among the top three lawsuit instigators. “I think it is unconscionable that after my patients are discharged from Johns Hopkins, they are at risk of being targeted for medical debt lawsuits. Hopkins, and other Maryland hospitals, must do better by their patients.”

The report, “Preying on Patients” is jointly issued by the groups National Nurses United, the AFL-CIO, Coalition for a Humane Hopkins, and the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition (MCRC). The report shows there is no economic rationale for the state’s hospital industry to have filed more than 145,000 lawsuits against patients from 2009-2018, that the impact of this litigation harms low-income Marylanders by likely deterring them from seeking medical care, and then urges the General Assembly to protect patients by passing reform legislation.


Maryland lawmakers are answering that call. The first bill, the Financial Assistance Policies and Bill Collections Act, is sponsored by Delegate Robbyn Lewis in the House as H.B. 1420 and by Senator Brian Feldman in the Senate as S.B. 875. This legislation would expand the steps hospitals must take to screen a patient’s eligibility for financial assistance before sending bills to collections, reduce financial assistance paperwork for patients who have already established proof of their low income through other programs, require hospitals to provide written notice in the patient’s preferred language, and give patients the right to sue hospitals to enforce state laws about financial assistance policies – among other provisions.

The second bill, the Medical Debt Protections Act, is sponsored by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian in the House as H.B. 1081 and also by Senator Feldman in the Senate as S.B. 873. This legislation would place much tighter restrictions on medical debt lawsuits and debt collection practices, including prohibiting litigation for $5,000 or less, prohibiting liens on patients’ homes, requiring hospitals to offer reasonable payment plans, and banning lawsuits while appeals or applications for financial help are still pending – among other provisions.


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