Lawmakers push hospitals to standardize patient debt collections

A sudden and unexpected serious injury or illness can catch anyone off guard. In fact, this particular scenario inspires more Americans to file for bankruptcy and foreclosure than any other financial difficulty. Medical debt can quickly become overwhelming. Sifting through medical statements and determining whether the amount one owes is correct can also be a uniquely challenging process. In addition, there are few things that are more frustrating to a seriously ill or injured person than dealing with medical debt collectors.

Federal regulators and lawmakers have recently recognized that the medical debt collections system in America is a mess. Both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Congress have grown weary of the patchwork of collections standards used by the medical industry and the ways in which many in the industry harass patients who do not understand or cannot afford their bills.

In an effort to revise industry standards on their own terms, debt collection professional organization ACA International and the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) have created new guidelines entitled "The Medical Debt Resolution Overview." These organizations hope that these guidelines will keep Congress and the IRS from enacting limits on the medical industry's ability to collect patient debt.

These best practices will be voluntary within the medical industry. As a result, some facilities and practitioners will likely continue to attempt to collect medical debts in harassing or otherwise unacceptable ways. Even as reform is being sought within the medical industry, not every player will adhere to the new voluntary guidelines. Therefore, if you or a loved one continues to suffer harassment or other unacceptable behavior from debt collectors, please do not hesitate to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney.

Source: Forbes, " Hospitals, Debt Collectors Rush To Create Standards For Collecting Patient Debt," Evan Albright, Sept. 4, 2013

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