As of January 1st 2022, California’s new medical debt collection law is officially in force. Assembly Bill (AB) 1020 is a landmark new bill that will help protect California residents from overwhelming medical debt.
The law institutes several critical restrictions on hospitals, limiting how they can pursue and assign debt. As a result, it will help tens of thousands of California residents with excessive medical bills make their payments without forcing bankruptcies or ruining their credit. Keep reading to learn more about AB 1020, how it works, and how you can rely on the law to protect you from pushy medical bill collectors.
What Is the New Medical Debt Collection Law?
AB 1020 is focused on hospital debt collections. The bill is intended to help uninsured and underinsured people pay for their medical care with less stress. Many of its individual clauses focus on how hospitals can sell debts to debt collection agencies. In particular, hospitals cannot send a bill to collections until:
These amendments are important but won’t immediately impact your life. Their primary purpose is to give California residents more time to pay their bills without being harassed by debt collectors.
Several changes could more directly affect your finances, though. For instance, amendments that may matter to you include:
- harassing calls from getting worse as the number increase.
How to Use AB 1020 to Reduce Creditor Harassment
If you’re facing medical debt collection, AB 1020 will make a world of difference to your daily life. The following four tips will help you make the most of the new regulations and potentially save thousands of dollars and your peace of mind.
Acquire an Itemized Bill
Before you do anything else, you should understand exactly what you’re being asked to pay for. The new law requires hospitals to clearly explain how you can receive a fully itemized bill before they send your debt to collections.
With a fully itemized bill, you can look for places where you’ve been overcharged. You may find that you’ve been charged for items you didn’t receive or that you were charged twice the going rate for a procedure. In turn, you can take action against the hospital if they don’t remove the excess charges.
Apply for Your Hospital’s Charity Care or Financial Assistance Programs
Even if you’ve applied to your hospital’s financial aid programs before, it’s worth trying again. The ceiling for household income has been raised, so you may be eligible. With AB 1020, hospitals have to make it easy to find their charity or aid applications on their websites. If you can’t find it, call and ask them to send you a copy.
This is particularly important because it can potentially halt even current collection actions in their tracks. If you turn out to qualify for financial assistance now, collections agencies must stop their actions against you until you’ve determined how much of the bill that assistance will cover. You may even be refunded if you’ve made payments beyond your portion of the bill.
Request a Payment Plan
Even if you don’t necessarily qualify for aid, you can still use AB 1020 to your benefit. The law includes multiple provisions that require hospitals to make it as easy as possible for people to pay their bills.
For example, even if you cannot get financial assistance, you can use the additional time granted by AB 1020 to negotiate a payment plan with the institution. Most hospitals prefer to receive any payment at all over sending a bill to collections, so they may be willing to set up a more affordable plan for you.
Get Legal Assistance
If you still need help, you should get in touch with an experienced medical debt collection harassment lawyer. A good attorney will study your situation and help you identify any ways in which debt collectors are violating your rights. Since AB 1020 is so new, many collections agencies may not be in compliance with it yet. If so, the right lawyer can potentially help you stop the harassment for good.
Stop Medical Debt Collection Harassment Today
AB 1020 will make it significantly easier for people like you to afford the medical treatment they need. Even if you’ve already acquired medical debt, you may be able to use AB 1020 to get financial assistance and stop debt collectors in their tracks. You can learn more about how AB 1020 could improve your life and prevent further harassment from debt collectors by scheduling your consultation with an experienced lawyer today.