ACA International members testified in April to ensure consumers could make voluntary payments on medical debt. Editor’s note: This article is available for members only.
The Nevada Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor recommended an amended version of S.B. 284 on medical debt after a short work session May 10. The bill is now eligible for a vote on the Assembly floor.
The bill, which passed in the Nevada Senate 19-2 April 12, requires a collection agency to notify a consumer before taking any action to collect a medical debt and prohibits certain practices relating to the collection of medical debt, ACA previously reported.
ACA members including ACA President G. Scott Purcell, president of Professional Credit, Nevada Collectors Association (NCA) President Tim Myers, business development at Clark County Collection Service LLC, and ACA Board Member Christian Lehr, president of Health Care Collections-I LLC, testified in opposition to the bill before the committee April 23. Their testimony included concerns about the payments process from consumers who may want to make a voluntary payment during the proposed 60-day waiting period before collection actions can begin.
“The progress on S.B. 428 is a great example of the significant importance of our political relationships developed over time, and the educational role we are uniquely able to play,” Purcell said. “We need even stronger relationships and activity to curb well-intended but ultimately harmful legislation. We also need to be strategic in working with affected partners so there can be a broad voice representing the harm these bills can cause. Despite some of the progress we’ve made, S.B. 248 as it stands now is a step backward for Nevada consumers who pay their bills on time. It will increase health care costs for everyone, especially because of the new amendment mandating certified mail for the notice required before an agency can initiate collections.”
Myers also sent a letter to the committee before the work session.
“We have tried to work with the bill sponsor and its proponents, and we understand they are proposing another amendment—but that amendment does not address our many concerns and we must still oppose the bill as written,” Myers said in the letter. “While we of course understand the good intentions of the bill to help protect consumers from a few bad actors, this bill simply goes way too far. The Nevada Collectors Association remains committed to continue to work with the bill sponsor and proponents to try and find a reasonable solution that will protect all stakeholders.”
The amendments and additions to the bill approved May 10, including those in response to ACA members\ concerns, include:
- Changing the definition of “medical debt” in the bill to include the financing or an extension of credit established by a third party solely to purchase goods or services provided by a medical facility, a provider of health care or a provider of emergency medical services. Medical debt does not include an open-end or closed-end extension of credit made by a financial institution to a borrower that may be used by the borrower, at the borrower’s discretion, for any lawful purpose including, but not limited to, the purchase of goods or services provided by a medical facility, a provider of health care or a provider of emergency medical services.
- Written communications about medical debt should be sent by certified mail. Not less than 60 days before taking any action to collect a medical debt, a collection agency shall send to the medical debtor written notification by certified mail identifying the name of the collection agency and informing the medical debtor that it has been assigned or otherwise obtained the medical debt for collection. The written notification shall set forth the name of the medical facility, provider of health care or provider of emergency medical services that provided the goods or services for which the medical debt is owed; the date on which those goods or services were provided; and the principal amount of the medical debt.
- Nothing shall prohibit a collection agency from accepting a voluntary payment from a “medical debtor” so long as the “medical debtor” initiates the contact with the collection agency and the collection agency discloses to the “medical debtor” that a payment is not demanded or due nor will the medical debt be reported to any credit reporting agencies during the notice period. Any voluntary payment by a “medical debtor” to a collection agency toward the medical debt shall not extend the applicable statute of limitations. A voluntary payment made by the “medical debtor” to a collection agency is not an admission of liability and shall not be construed as a waiver of any defenses to the collection of the medical debt.
- No action by the “medical debtor” to initiate contact with the collection agency can be construed to allow the collection agency to take action to collect the medical debt prior to the expiration of the 60-day waiting period. The protections set forth are for the benefit of the “medical debtor” and cannot be waived.
While the Nevada Collectors Association continues to work on the bill, Purcell noted several elements of it were improved through the amendments.
“Supporters of S.B. 248 are passionate about these changes, and several ACA members and the Nevada Collectors Association worked diligently at bringing the harm of these ideas in the legislative process to light,” Purcell said. “The outcome of the bill, so far, would have been much more damaging to consumers and health care providers without this effort.”
The Nevada Collectors Association and its lobbying team continue to work with the legislature to further amend the bill. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, would need to be reconsidered in the Senate now that the amendments are recommended for approval in the Assembly.
ACA International is seeking member input on the bill and is looking to identify members that have health care clients working in the medical debt collection space in Nevada.
Contact Andrew Madden, ACA’s vice president of state unit and government affairs, at [email protected] for more information and to share your input.