Maryland changed its law this year. Hospitals had been suing people who legally qualified for financial assistance,charity care. Taking them to court, getting their wages garnished.
Thanks to the new Medical Debt Protection Act, that’s now illegal. In Maryland. Lots of other states? Still a thing.
So we wanted to know how that change came about, and found a coalition of consumer-protection advocates, riled-up activists, and health-care worker unions.
This is the fourth episode in a series about how change happens, even in a broken health care system like ours. We’ve been focusing on charity care , financial assistance from hospitals.
We got interested in charity care earlier this year after a guy named Jared Walker went super-viral on TikTok, telling people how to “crush medical bills”: He was making people aware that charity care exists,that it’s a legal obligation for most hospitals, and you can hold them to it.
10 million people saw that video and started taking Jared’s advice. As we reported: that advice was sound, and needed, because lots of hospitals weren’t living up to that obligation.
Over the past few episodes, we’ve been tracing the history of this law:
- We started with the story of a legendary lawyer , famous for suing big tobacco and winning , who sued nonprofit hospitals across the country for failing to provide charity care. And lost. Hospitals just weren’t legally obligated to do it.
- That obligation became a tiny part of a huge, divisive law: the Affordable Care Act. But the negotiations over this one provision were an important part of a political dance that almost tanked the whole law.
- That national political battle grew out of lots of smaller-scale fights around the country. We looked at New York, where one man’s tragic death sparked changes to charity care rules that activists had been working toward for years.
And we close out this episode by checking in with Jared and his organization, Dollar For, as they build an army of volunteers to tackle $100+ million in medical debt , one bill at a time.
Need help applying for charity care for you or a loved one? We compiled a list of helpful tips from Jared and DollarFor.
Want to learn more, directly from Jared? Sign up for his next training; it’s on October 14, 2021.
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