Senators Shaheen, Hassan Urge HHS to Protect Consumers and Prevent Hospitals from Going After Patients’ Wages to Collect Medical Debts

May 14, 2020

The Senators Wrote: “To carry out such aggressive behavior during a pandemic and economic downturn is egregious”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined colleagues in urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prevent hospitals from collecting medical debt by taking part of a patient’s paycheck—known as wage garnishment—during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to deny emergency relief funds to hospitals engaging in this practice.  

“We write to express serious concerns with ongoing instances of wage garnishment by hospitals in aggressive pursuit of medical debt collection during the COVID-19 pandemic. As you prepare to release further tranches of emergency funding to health care providers from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF), we request that you condition payment of these funds on a commitment by hospitals not to garnish wages as a means to collect medical debt during this public health emergency, regardless of whether the medical debt was incurred during the crisis,” the Senators wrote.

They underscored their concerns, noting, “Wage garnishment for the purposes of medical debt collection raises concerns in normal times. To carry out such aggressive behavior during a pandemic and economic downturn is egregious.”

The letter is part of Senator Shaheen and Hassan's ongoing efforts to support Granite Staters’ economic stability as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Senator Hassan has been leading efforts in Congress to end the absurd practice of surprise medical billing, and is working to include provisions to end surprise billing in future COVID-19 response legislation. Senators Shaheen and Hassan have also called on insurance companies to cover all COVID-19-related treatment and services without cost-sharing requirements, which would allow Granite Staters and Americans to get tested, assessed, and treated without the fear of unexpected medical bills.

In addition to Senators Shaheen and Hassan, the letter, which was led by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), was also signed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The full text of the letter is available here.