The bill includes requirements for medical bill collections from lower-income households and health care providers’ financial assistance policies.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to prevent health care providers from sending medical bills to collections or filing medical debt lawsuits for people whose household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level this week. The state’s deadline for the governor to sign legislation is April 9.
The Patients’ Debt Collection Practices Act, sponsored by State Reps. Katy Duhigg, Martin Hickey and Deborah Armstrong, was passed by the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee Feb. 18 and referred to the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee, where it passed with a committee substitution.
It passed in the full state Senate 27-12 March 10 and in the state House of Representatives 42-28 March 16.
Requirements in the bill, which will take effect July 1, 2021, include:
- For patients who are determined to be “indigent patients,” charges for health care services and medical debt shall not be pursued through collection actions. All collection actions through which charges for health care services and medical debt are pursued shall be terminated upon the determination that a patient is an indigent patient. Health care facilities, third-party health care providers and medical creditors shall not hire or otherwise engage third parties to perform collection actions against or otherwise recover debts from “indigent patients.”
- In addition to any other actions required by applicable state or federal law or local government ordinance, health care facilities shall take the following steps before seeking payment for emergency or medically necessary care:
1) Offer to and, if requested, verify whether a patient has any health insurance;
2) If the patient is uninsured, offer information about, offer to screen the patient for and, if requested, screen the patient for all available public insurance; any other public programs that may assist with health care costs; and any financial assistance offered by the health care facility.
If requested, health care providers must help with the application process for programs identified during the screening; and if a third-party health care provider will bill the patient, send the information gathered during the steps required pursuant to this subsection to the third-party health care provider.
The New Mexico attorney general shall enforce the provisions of the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act and shall adopt rules in accordance with that act to provide for the protection of patients and their families and to assist market participants in interpreting that act.
The attorney general is also required to establish a process for an aggrieved patient or a member of the public to file a complaint against a health care facility, third-party health care provider, medical creditor or medical debt collector that violates a provision of the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act.