Researchers have found that adults with disabilities are more likely to have unpaid medical bills than people without disabilities, even when they have health insurance.
According to a 2017 report titled “Financial Capability of Adults with Disabilities” by the National Disability Institute, people with disabilities tend to seek medical care more frequently than others and often require a range of services, equipment and materials. supports that are not fully covered by insurance plans or other programs.
This unpaid debt can cause credit problems that could prevent a person from obtaining a loan.
To address concerns about medical debt, Congress passed the Medical Debt Relief Act in 2016, which provides some protection for people facing high medical expenses. By law, if an unpaid medical bill goes to a collection agency, the company must notify the patient of the action.
The patient has 180 days from the notification to repay the debt before the agency is allowed to report it to the credit bureaus. Additionally, once a medical collection has been paid for, the medical debt must be removed from the patient’s credit report within 45 days as per the law.
âMost of the time, people don’t even know what’s on their credit reports,â said Larry McCabe, who manages Access Loan New Mexico, a statewide financial loan program. for people with disabilities.
Often a medical bill goes unpaid because the hospital did not bill Medicaid or an insurance company for the service or never received payment due to a Medicaid program or company error. assurance. The erroneous process can lead the hospital to hand the bill over to a collection agency without the patient being aware of the payment issues.
âI tell people they need to contact the hospital to make things right,â McCabe said.
The provisions of other federal laws give a person the right to receive written confirmation of a debt as well as the right to dispute it and to dispute inaccurate information on credit reports.
Under the Federal Affordable Care Act, some patients are protected from debt collection if they have contacted a nonprofit hospital in writing about their medical bills and requested financial assistance options to cover. their medical expenses.
McCabe has managed Access Loan New Mexico for the past 13 years and has made over 200 loans.
Access Loan New Mexico was established in 2005 by the San Juan Center for Independence in Farmington, a state and federal funded nonprofit that supports people with disabilities. Program loans are available to anyone with a disability in New Mexico who needs home modifications, hearing aids, adaptive vehicles, or other out-of-pocket services or equipment.
McCabe said he is also providing assistance through the organization’s Last Resort Fund. It works with other organizations including the Elks Lodge and the Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation to jointly fund projects and stretch the dollars.
When it comes to helping out with getting a loan, âIt all comes down to affordability,â McCabe said. âI will do an affordability assessment when someone applies for a loan and provides credit counseling. “
When someone needs a van with a lift to go to school or a modified truck, it can cost anywhere from $ 40,000 to $ 60,000, he said. And even with an interest rate of 2.8%, the monthly payment could be $ 600 to $ 800.
The client would need a source of income and a budget to manage these new costs, he said. Still, he added: “We are working with everyone and trying to make it work.”
Andy Winnegar has spent his career in rehabilitation and is based in Santa Fe as a training associate for the Southwest ADA Center. He can be contacted at [email protected]