‘We need people to join in.’ VanderSloot urges public to contact lawmakers about medical debt collection bill
Published at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS — Contact your lawmakers and tell them how you feel about aggressive medical debt collection in Idaho.
That’s what Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot is asking the public to do as state representatives consider House Bill 425, the Idaho Patient Act, which would change medical billing practices and collections statewide.
“There are some loopholes in Idaho and what these attorneys are doing is basically taking small medical debts and turning them into huge attorney fees,” VanderSloot says. “We need people to join in and let their legislators know how they feel about this.”
VanderSloot has launched IdahoPatientAct.org, a website that explains the bill and allows users to easily submit their thoughts to local legislators in the Idaho House of Representatives and Senate with the click of a button.
The Idaho Patient Act would require doctors to send patient’s bills to insurance companies within 45 days of being treated, and provides a timeline for when medical facilities can go after patients to collect a debt. Medical facilities and hospitals would also be required to provide patients with a list of everyone who treated them during a visit so patients know what bills to expect.
Additionally, the bill would cap what attorneys can charge when handling medical bills that have been sent to collections – $350 for uncontested cases and $750 for those that are contested. Finally, the Idaho Patient Act would require attorneys to produce bills for patients being sued.
“It’s simple. It’s not going to run up medical costs and the doctors we’ve talked to are in favor of it,” VanderSloot tells EastIdahoNews.com. “There are special forces working against it – especially the people getting really wealthy on the current processes. We expect a big army to come out against it and we need the citizens to write to their legislator and say, ‘Please, please do the right thing.'”
VanderSloot became interested in medical debt collection practices after a Melaleuca employee was sued by Medical Recovery Services (MRS) for an outstanding $294 bill she didn’t know she had. After several hearings, Bryan Smith, an MRS attorney, requested nearly $6,000 in attorney fees.
EastIdahoNews.com ran a series of stories about the collection company and VanderSloot was shocked at the number of people with similar stories.
“We realized this is bigger than we thought. My wife and I said we need to help these folks and we’ve got the resources to do it,” he says.
The VanderSloots created Idaho Medical Debt, which has helped over 200 Idahoans who believe they have been unfairly targeted by medical debt collection companies.
Rep. Jason Monks (R-Nampa) and Sen. Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) are the bill’s sponsors. VanderSloot says so far, the response has been positive and IdahoPatientAct.org is tracking where legislators stand on the issue.
“We have about 30 representatives behind it. That’s not going to carry the whole thing so we need people to weigh in,” VanderSloot says, noting that so far, only one lawmaker, Rep. Bryan Zollinger (R-Idaho Falls), has publically said he is against the bill. Zollinger is an attorney for MRS.
“He has friends in the legislature and they’re going to have to do the right thing for the citizens of Idaho,” VanderSloot says. “A lot of legislators absolutely have the courage to do this but we have a few that say it’s going to be very hard on them. That’s why we need the people of Idaho to speak up and let their voices be heard.”
Learn more about the Idaho Patient Act and contact your legislators here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2015, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot provided the seed money to launch EastIdahoNews.com. For a short time, he was an owner. He has never had anything to do with the operations of EastIdahoNews.com. Nearly two years ago, he totally divested his ownership.