16% Increase in health care prices from 2016 to 2020. As of 2022, over 100 million people in the U.S. are experiencing medical debt.
Community Catalyst identified five areas of policy that have the potential to reduce or grow medical debt, depending on any given state’s approach. The areas are financial assistance and free care, prescribed discounts/caps on charges, billing and collections, facility fees, and price transparency.
We rate a state’s policies in each of the categories as “low,” “medium,” or “high,” based on criteria including the scope of entities to which a rule applies, the specificity and extent of its requirements, and the strength of its enforcement mechanism. The ratings for each of the categories were then combined to produce an overall, composite rating for every state.Take Action
States have the power to curb excessive hospital prices and protect patients from medical debt. Advocates can use the compendium to guide policy change that, at a minimum:
- Require all hospitals to provide free or discounted care to uninsured/underinsured patients with incomes under specified levels;
- Require all hospitals to limit the prices charged to patients below a specified income threshold to Medicare levels or lower;
- Require that hospitals screen patients for eligibility for free or discounted care, unless the patient specifically declines screening;
- Prohibit the most harmful collection actions, including wage garnishment, home foreclosures and property liens, adverse credit reporting, and denying medical care due to outstanding bills;
- Limit or prohibit facility fees;
- Require broad and accessible publication of hospital prices; and
- Robustly enforce all of these requirements, using, for example, financial penalties, licensure authority, and private rights of action.
This work was made possible by generous support from Arnold Ventures.
We thank authors Robert Seifert, Policy Researcher and Independent Consultant, Miriam Straus, Senior Policy Analyst at Community Catalyst, Sheila Philips, State Advocacy Manager at the Center for Community Engagement in Health Innovation, Michael Matson, Policy Analyst at Community Catalyst, and Quynh Chi Nguyen, Associate Director for the Center for Community Engagement in Health Innovation for their leadership in conducting state policy research and analysis.
We also thank Community Catalyst colleagues Brandon Wilson, Senior Director of the Center for Community Engagement in Health, Michael Miller, Senior Advisor of Strategic Policy, Amrit Cheng, Director of Storytelling and Content Strategy for their policy insight and content presentation.