Congressional progressives want to eliminate medical debt 

The Hill

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is leading an effort to wipe out the medical debt of the entire country. 

The legislation introduced Wednesday — co-sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Rashida Tliab (D-Mich.) — would eliminate all $220 billion in medical debt held by Americans, wipe it from credit reports, and drastically limit the accrual of future medical debt.   According to an analysis of Census Bureau data, about 20 million Americans owe medical debt. Around 14 million Americans owe more than $1,000 in medical debt, and about 3 million owe medical debt of more than $10,000.  “People in our country should not be going bankrupt because they got cancer and could not afford to pay their medical bills,” Sanders said in a statement.   “No one in America should face financial ruin because of the outrageous cost of an unexpected medical emergency or a hospital stay. The time has come to cancel all medical debt and guarantee health care to all as a human right, not a privilege.”  The bill would create a federal grant program to cancel all existing medical debt, “prioritizing low-resource providers and vulnerable populations.”  Within just one year of enactment, the bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to cancel all debt owed by patients to hospitals. Within two years, the program is meant to include any other medical debt held by U.S. patients  The bill would also make it illegal to collect medical debt incurred prior to the bill’s enactment, and create a private right of action for patients.  A KFF report from 2022 found that about 1 out of 3 adults said they expected to be able to pay off a medical bill within one year and about a quarter said they could pay off their bills within two years. But 1 out of 5 adults said they don’t foresee ever being able to pay off their debt.  The idea of wiping out medical debt is broadly popular; a 2022 YouGov poll found 66 percent of Americans favored providing some relief for people with medical debt. The support was bipartisan, as 56 percent of Republicans said they supported medical debt relief.