The Current State of Medical Debt in Oregon
The last thing you want to be worried about during an unexpected illness or injury is the cost of your medical bills. For those with steady jobs and good health insurance, typically, this is not a major problem, or if it is, it’s not an insurmountable issue. However, all too often, people are seeking treatment knowing that it will put them thousands of dollars into debt and ultimately, they are forced to sink into medical debt in order to afford life-saving treatments and medications.
This is a very common issue for patients, but it affects Oregon health professionals as well. Their focus is to treat their patients as effectively as possible, but if their patients are not up to date on their medical bills, doctors are often put in a sticky spot. This is an issue throughout the United States, but in Oregon, lawmakers are taking steps to ease the strain of medical debt on patients. This is how they’re making a change and what it means for medical professionals in Oregon.
What Are the Current Rules for Collecting on Medical Debt in Oregon?
As of right now, federal law prohibits debt collectors from harassing people. This means that they are not allowed to contact people before 8 AM or after 9 PM. However, this law was passed in 1977, and technology has opened up a whole new world of ways to contact people. There are currently new federal laws being discussed to update these rules so that they accommodate the new technological advances. With the discussion sparked by Washington D.C., some states are taking steps to address medical debt specifically.
Oregon has a bill being discussed that would cap the amount of interest that can be charged on medical debt and requires hospitals to screen patients and let them know if they are eligible for financial assistance and insurance. This bill also requires non-profit hospitals and the affiliated clinics to provide care for free for families with incomes of up to 200% of the poverty level and charge a lower amount for families earning up to 400% of the poverty level. This assistance would open doors for lower-income families that would keep people from having to go into debt or file for bankruptcy due to their medical bills.
How Can Oregon Medical Professionals and Hospitals Handle Medical Debt?
All of this is incredibly promising for residents of Oregon, but medical professionals are still going to have to deal with handling medical debt for their patients in a way that preserves the trust and respect that their patients expect from doctors. There are a few different ways medical professionals can do this:
- You can discuss options for financial assistance and let your patients know what kind of resources they might be eligible for to help with their debt.
- You can let them know that there are payment plan options that will help them pay down their debt in manageable increments.
- You can walk them through their bill so they understand all of the charges.
By offering assistance to those who need it and being willing to discuss the charges in a way that your patient can understand, you’ll be able to address the issue of medical debt without costing you your rapport with your patients.