IDAHO FALLS — A bill meant to put limits on medical debt collection in Idaho has been signed into law and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
Gov. Brad Little signed the Idaho Patient Act Monday alongside the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) and Rep. Jason Monks (R-Nampa). The Idaho Senate sent the legislation to the governor’s desk with a vote of 32-1 earlier this month after the House approved the bill with a 49-20 vote.
“I am thrilled that these bad actors are going to be stopped from their egregious actions of turning medical debts into attorney bills,” Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said. “My only regret is that the law doesn’t go into effect until January 1. I fear that these bad actors will step up their unethical activities until they are forced to stop.”
VanderSloot spent the past year calling for stricter regulations on medical debt collections after a Melaleuca employee was sued by Medical Recovery Services (MRS) for an outstanding $294 bill she said she didn’t know she had. After several court 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. He and his wife, Belinda, created a $1 million fund to help defend Idahoans against unfair medical debt collection practices and spent months working with lawmakers in crafting the Idaho Patient Act.
Under the bill:
- Providers must submit a bill to a patient’s insurance company or to the patient within 45 days of providing a service.
- Patients will receive a single list of everyone that’s going to bill them with 60 days of service.
- Medical providers cannot sue a patient or turn a bill over to collections until 90 days after the patient receives a final statement.
- Attorneys’ fees on medical debt cases will be limited.
“I am hopeful that judges will use the new law as guidance in establishing legitimate and reasonable attorney fees even though the law is not yet in effect,” VanderSloot said. “I believe that our good judges have been looking for guidance and now they have it.”
The law goes into effect in January to provide medical providers time to comply with the changes.