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Rep. Porter, Sen. Merkley Reintroduce Medical Debt Relief Bill

Bicameral legislation would protect patients with medical debt from long-term financial harm

Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45) and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) today reintroduced legislation to shield patients with medical debt from long-term financial devastation. The Medical Debt Relief Act would remove paid off or settled medical debt from a patient’s credit report and institute a year-long waiting period before new medical debt can be reported. 

“No one chooses to get sick, yet under our current system, patients can be saddled with a lifetime of financial harm when they’re forced to take on medical debt.” Congresswoman Porter said. “Over a year after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, it is more important than ever that we protect Americans with illnesses or injuries they can’t plan for.”

“There is nothing more outrageous than the fact that after a family has paid their medical debt, their credit is still destroyed as if that debt remains unpaid,” Senator Merkley said. “Credit agencies are repeatedly kicking families when they’re down and struggling to get back up, and in the middle of this devastating pandemic, it’s long past time we fix that.”

The Medical Debt Relief Act is badly needed as medical debt continues to grow across the country. Despite evidence from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that medical debt doesn’t accurately reflect creditworthiness, it continues to be reflected on credit reports. 

Congresswoman Porter and Senator Merkley were joined by 46 members of the House and 3 members of the Senate in introducing this legislation, which is also supported by the National Patient Advocate Foundation, National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, and Consumer Federation of America.

A longtime consumer protection advocate and commercial law professor, Porter has made consumer protection a top priority in Congress. She stood up to leaders of both parties to speak up against a bill that would prevent the IRS from creating its own program to allow Americans to file their taxes for free. At a 2019 Financial Services Committee hearing, she exposed Trump Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger for her unfamiliarity with the basics of consumer lending.