WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH, chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee, hosted a news conference call Wednesday to discuss efforts to protect Ohioans from medical debt and abusive debt collectors. The call followed a hearing Brown held on the same topic Tuesday.
“Illness and medical emergencies can happen to anyone, without warning. No one should have their financial future ruined because they get sick,” said Brown. “We need a consumer advocate to be a voice for all the Americans who shouldn’t face financial ruin because of a medical emergency. They would help consumers resolve complaints, and make sure companies are complying with federal laws, like the ban on surprise medical bills that we recently passed into law.”
According to a recent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) report, 43 million Americans hold $88 billion in medical debt, making medical debt the most common debt collection on credit records. Following pressure from the CFPB, this month the three credit reporting agencies announced they would remove most medical debt from credit reports. Brown has asked the CFPB to create a medical debt consumer advocate for consumers dealing with medical debt and abusive debt collectors.
Brown was joined on the call by Robyn King, a former second-grade teacher’s assistant in Cleveland who now works part-time and volunteers when she’s not caring for her family. As her mother aged and could no longer live at home without assistance, King took on primary responsibility for arranging her care until her mother died in October 2020. Her mother’s nursing home sued King for $80,000 in medical debt that had accrued due to the facility’s administrative failures. King sought and received help from The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and is now free from the burden of paying that debt.
“I want my story to shed light on what’s happening to normal, everyday people in this country who are just trying to care for themselves and one another. Medical care, and end-of-life care especially, is not something we can opt out of. Getting sick or having a family member get sick should not force people to face crushing amounts of debt,” said King. “I thought that I had done everything right in taking care of my mom, but without the good fortune of having Legal Aid represent me, I would have had an enormous judgment against me, and my family’s financial future would have been devastated. There must be a better way to take care of each other and not leave people like me facing life-changing amounts of debt.”
On the call, Brown called on the CFPB to create a medical debt consumer advocate position for medical debt who would help consumers resolve complaints, and make sure companies are complying with federal laws, like the No Surprises Act which recently went into effect.