In June 2021, the Colorado General Assembly passed a groundbreaking law to protect hospital patients from the hardships caused by medical debt. This legislation — HB21-1198: Health-care Billing Requirements for Indigent Patients — is a comprehensive response to the experiences of patients and patient advocates attempting to navigate hospital billing practices.

The new law addresses high hospital prices for low-income patients and simplifies the process of applying for financial relief. Additionally, it ensures that hospitals are connecting uninsured patients to Medicaid and other coverage programs when they are eligible, strengthens patient notification provisions and administrative oversight, and empowers patients to file lawsuits and collect attorney’s fees when collections actions are initiated in violation of their rights under the new law.

This brief tells the story of HB-1198 from conception through passage and the beginning of implementation. It is a story that begins with the experiences of the people in our communities who search in vain for hospital services they can afford, the people who are drowning in hospital bills after a sudden illness or injury, and the people who are suffering long-term financial distress because they were denied access to coverage or financial assistance.