New Yorkers who are struggling with medical debt could see some relief from its financially devastating effects under legislation under consideration by state lawmakers.
Advocates and lawmakers are calling for measures meant to protect patients who are facing steep medical bills that can lead to wage garnishment or liens against their property.
The bill would bar the garnishment of pay as well as liens against primary residences in the state. It previously was approved in the state Assembly and is expected to pass in the coming weeks in the state Senate.
The measure has the backing of both Assembly Health Committee Chairman Dick Gottfried as well as the top Senate Health Committee lawmaker in that chamber, Sen. Gustavo Rivera. The proposal also has the backing dozens of organizations from around the state, including Citizen Action of New York and the New York Public Interest Research Group.
"Medical debt shouldn't exist in the first place," Rivera said on Monday at a news conference. "Institutions sometimes go after peoples wages or peoples' homes. The notion that people should be able to do that, we need to get rid of that."
Debt from medical bills is the most common form of debt overall for consumers and often falls on low-income paitents and people of color. Elizabeth Benjamin, the vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society, called the measure's parameters relatively modest considering the need.
"Even as late of this January, over 50% of New Yorkers have medical debt and over 60% said they are terrified of having to pay for medical procedures," she said. "So, it's a huge problem for regular people."