House passes medical debt bill
BOISE — The Idaho Patient Act passed the House of Representatives on Monday.
The bill, HB 515, passed the House with 49 votes in favor and 20 votes against with one person abstaining. It now goes to the Senate Business Committee for debate.
The legislation is, in part, a response to medical debt collection practices discovered in east Idaho.
In an investigation conducted by EastIdahoNews.com, the debt collection company Medical Recovery Services — where Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, and prominent local Republican Bryan Smith both work — was found to be consistently charging debtors supplemental attorney’s fees in amounts significantly more than the original debt.
The Idaho Patient Act would institute new timelines for billing, require transparency in the services being billed to patients, implement deadlines for when providers can send a bill to collections and caps the amount attorneys can receive in supplemental attorney’s fees in medical debt-collection lawsuits.
“We regulate when we see abuses,” Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, said in his closing statements Monday. “We regulate when we see things are unfair. And we regulate when we see things are unjust. In my opinion, there have been some unjust and unfair situations in this state, and this is an attempt to bring that back to some evenness and fairness.”
Zollinger, one of the primary opponents of the bill said he agrees with the transparency aspect of the bill. But he said he has a problem with a section of the bill that would charge a fine to medical providers that send a bill to collection without meeting the terms of this legislation, they could end up paying a fine of up to $1,000.
“I think that alone is severe enough to stop this bill. Let them come back and do a re-draft where they’re not punishing our medical providers for making a mistake,” he said.
Zollinger spoke for around 50 minutes of the two-hour hearing.
House Republicans who voted in favor of the bill were joined by all House Democrats to pass the bill. Of the 20 who voted against the bill, all were Republicans, including Zollinger. Local Reps. Barbara Ehardt and Chad Christensen also voted against. We will update this story with lawmakers’ comments as we receive them.
The Idaho Patient Act now goes to the Senate.