HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania lawmakers plan to introduce a bill that would help low-income families facing medical debt.
The plan to create the Pennsylvania Medical Debt Repayment Program was unveiled on Monday by state Reps. Arvind Venkat and Nick Pisciottano, both D-Allegheny; Bridget Kosierowski (D-Lackawanna); and Tarik Khan and Donna Bullock, both D-Phila.
The lawmakers say the program would be similar to one implemented in Pittsburgh where $1 million was invested with the help of nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to help eliviate constituents’ debt.
According to the lawmakers, Pittsburgh estimates it will be able to discharge $115 million of health care debt for about 24,000 residents.
At a statewide level Pennsylvania lawmakers believe a $5 million investment in the state budget would clear an estimated $575 million of medical debt.
“Every $1 spent on this program could eliminate over $100 of medical debt – it’s hard to think of a better return on investment for taxpayers,” said Pisciottano. “The Pennsylvania Medical Debt Repayment Program would not only make health care more accessible but would also provide a significant boost to our economy by giving families more spending power.”
Lawmakers say some communities are hit harder than others when it comes to accumulating medical debt.
“Black and brown Pennsylvanians are disproportionately affected by medical costs, access to medical care and many illnesses that need routine treatments,” Bullock said. “To provide relief from bills is the first step to ensuring that everyone can access the care they need, when they need it.”
“As a nurse, I have seen firsthand the devastation that expensive health care bills can cause,” Khan said. “Medical debt keeps people from getting the treatments they need and can worsen their health. I support this legislation to avoid seeing another person skip out on a critical treatment that they need to avoid an unmanageable medical debt they cannot afford.”
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mark Rozzi has pledged to not consider any legislation until the House passes a bill creating a window for childhood sexual abuse victims to file a civil lawsuit regardless of the statute of limitations. At this time the House has not passed rules or the abuse legislation.
The medical debt program bill will now await a committee referral from Rozzi. A copy of the legislation has not been published on the House sponsor’s websites.