NC treasurer touts healthcare reform with ‘Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

Republican Treasurer Dale Folwell traveled to Asheville to hear emotional stories of North Carolinians dealing with the cost of health care and medical debt.

“When you see what is happening to health care in western North Carolina, it’s obviously something worth getting mad about,” Folwell said on Thursday during a public hearing. “That’s why we filed the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act. This is a pro-family, anti-poverty piece of legislation.”

House Bill 1039 would require hospitals, hospital-affiliated clinics, ambulatory surgical centers and health care providers with annual revenues above $20 million and licensed health care professionals working in those organizations to disclose prices and financial assistance. They also would be required to provide minimum levels of free care and prohibit certain collection practices. The bill also requires:

  • providing free and discounted care based on a patients’ household income;
  • requiring health care providers to determine whether the patient has health insurance and helping them apply for public or private insurance;
  • disclosing the gross charges for all health care services and amounts Medicare would reimburse for the same services.

“Anybody who tries to make this a Democrat or Republican or unaffiliated issue is lazy,” Folwell said. “This is a moral issue. When people cannot make ends meet and when they cannot see themselves past their poverty… because of things associated with medical billing, that is a problem.”

A media release distributed by Folwell’s office stated medical debt is crippling the upward mobility of North Carolinians and threatening to create generational poverty. Research conducted by Folwell’s office found multiple hospitals in the state fail to provide an amount charitable care equal to the amount they receive in tax exemptions.

“We’ve got to figure out how we change things because this is about community, it is about people, it is about caring, it is about kindness, it is about taking care of those that are most vulnerable in our society,” Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof said during the hearing. “This is what we’re all about. This is what my community is about.

“This is what my community is fighting for because we are not going to stand by and watch while people are dehumanized, while medicine is turned into a corporate money machine.”

Folwell said North Carolina’s state health plan is one of the largest unfunded health care liabilities in the nation. He estimated the health plan will need another $5 billion in appropriations during the next six years to remain operable.