FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, September 21, 2023
CONTACT: Gena Madow, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Catalyst, State Advocates & Impacted Community Members Applaud Biden Administration Action on Medical Debt
Action Comes After Yearslong Campaign By Community Catalyst And Partner Organizations
“This is an important milestone in our collective efforts and will provide immediate relief to people that have unfairly had their credit impacted simply because they got sick.” – Emily Stewart
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Biden-Harris administration announced that it is taking executive action to prevent medical debt from impacting credit scores. This proposed rulemaking comes after a yearslong campaign by Community Catalyst and partners urging for more aggressive action to address the medical debt crisis in America. Today’s announcement by Vice President Harris and Director Chopra of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) comes just over a week following a Medical Debt Day of Action, led by Community Catalyst, and the submission of nearly 11,000 petitions from individuals in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. urging the administration to act. One of our key asks was for the administration to take action to stop medical debt from showing up on credit scores.
Statement from Emily Stewart, executive director, Community Catalyst:
“We applaud the Biden-Harris administration for taking important steps to address the medical debt crisis in America. This is an important milestone in our collective efforts and will provide relief to people that have unfairly had their credit impacted simply because they got sick. Nobody, no matter where we live or how much money we have, should be forced to make the impossible choice between getting essential care and going into debt.
“Together, alongside more than 70 state and national partners, we celebrate the progress that is made possible when we center community members and impacted individuals in policy decisions. We are grateful the Biden administration is listening, and we will continue to shine a bright light on the additional protections people need, including a prohibition on predatory deferred interest credit cards and new protections against unfair practices at some non-profit hospitals. There are additional actions the Biden administration can and should take to build on this important announcement.”
Just last week, Community Catalyst brought together dozens of national and state partners, as well as impacted community members, to shine a bright light on the tangible ways (including stopping medical debt from showing up on credit scores) the Biden administration could provide relief to people and communities nationwide. They met with members of Congress as well as administration officials from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Treasury, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the National Economic Council (NEC).
Medical debt impacts more than 100 million people in the United States, including those with health insurance. But importantly, it doesn’t impact us the same. Because of racism, classism and other forms of oppression, people with low-incomes as well as Black and Latinx communities bear the brunt of the health and economic costs.
Several of the community storytellers discussed how their outstanding medical bills have impacted their credit score. They are among the thousands that have shared their stories — in the media, through petitions, and at events — to ensure this issue is at the forefront.
- Misty, Colorado: At age 23, Grand Junction resident Misty Castaneda underwent life-saving heart surgery, leaving her with $200,000 in medical bills and unable to divorce her abusive partner. Because medical debt had destroyed her credit score, Misty could not get housing, a car, or a credit card on her own, forcing her to stay in an abusive relationship for 20 years. Misty studied and got her license to be an insurance provider, but she could not get a job because prospective employers checked her credit as part of the hiring process.
- Alyssia, Georgia: Alyssia had to pay for a lot of care with credit cards. She struggled to pay it off and had debt in collections — waiting for the collections to come off her credit report has really hurt her finances.
- Samuel, Ohio: In 2021, Samuel was diagnosed with kidney stones that required emergency surgery. Samuel’s original medical bill was $25,000, which was an error and was actually meant to be $6,000. No one from the hospital or his insurance discussed any payment assistance options with him. He wasn’t able to keep up with the bills and his debt was transferred to a third-party collections agency. To date, Samuel is still paying off this debt and his credit continues to suffer.
You shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent or getting a prescription filled — yet for many people, this is a reality. When your credit score plummets because of an exorbitant medical bill, it shouldn’t hurt your ability to rent a home or to get a bank loan to buy a house or car — but for many people, it does.
According to a 2020 report from The Commonwealth Fund:
- 48% of people with medical debt used up all their savings to pay off their medical bills
- 40% received a lower credit rating as a result of their medical debt
- 1/4 were unable to pay for basic necessities such as food, heat, or rent
Learn more about the medical debt campaign and proposed solutions. Those that have been impacted by medical debt are encouraged to share their story and utilize the “Know Your Rights” resource to better understand and fight medical bills.
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Community Catalyst is a national organization dedicated to building the power of people to create a health system rooted in race equity and health justice, and a society where health is a right for all. We’re an experienced, trusted partner to organizations across the country, a change agent to policymakers at the local, state, and national level, and both an adversary and a collaborator to health systems in our efforts to advance health justice. We partner with local, state and national organizations and leaders to leverage and build power so that people are at the center of important decisions about health and health care, whether they are made by health care executives, in state houses, or on Capitol Hill. Together with partners, we’re building a powerful, united movement with a shared vision of and strategy for a health system accountable to all people. Learn more at communitycatalyst.org.