Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) called Monday for the scrapping of medical debt in response to news that the nation’s three largest credit reporting agencies will remove paid-off medical debt from credit reports.
Experian, Equifax and TransUnion announced last week that credit reports will no longer include medical debts that have been subject to collections after they have been paid off. This accounts for nearly 70% of medical debt on credit reports and will eliminate billions of dollars in recorded debt. Agencies are also extending the grace period before medical debt appears on credit reports from six months to one year.
Sanders welcomed the move, but said it doesn’t go far enough. “‘Medical debt’ and ‘medical bankruptcy’ are two expressions that should not exist in the United States of America,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “Removing 70% of unpaid medical debt from credit reports is a step in the right direction, and more needs to be done. We must cancel all medical debts.
Earlier this week, Sanders said he planned to reintroduce legislation to establish Medicare for All as millions are set to lose Medicaid coverage under a privatization program the Biden administration is implementing. Medicare for All would eliminate most medical payments, dramatically reducing or even eliminating widespread medical debt problems.
Medical bankruptcy is a uniquely American problem. In other rich countries – all with universal health care – virtual medical bankruptcy does not exist. And even, tens of millions of people in the United States, the fight against medical debt; about half of the country’s adults incurring medical debt (although estimates on this vary and some research has found only about 10% of adults have medical debt).
Adults are late needing medical attention or skipping prescriptions due to associated costs, including people with insurance coverage who cannot afford co-payment and coinsurance. Although detrimental to people’s health, such behavior is understandable given that millions of people in the United States are pushed into poverty by these out-of-pocket medical expenses.
In his last presidential run, Sanders campaigned on eliminate medical debt and impose strict guidelines on how medical debt could be enforced.
“500,000 Americans will go bankrupt this year because of medical bills. They didn’t go to Las Vegas and spend their money in a casino. Their crime is that they got sick,” he said. said in 2019. “How barbaric is a system that says, ‘I’m going to destroy your family’s finances because you had cancer’?
At the time, it was estimated that Americans held about $81 billion in medical debt, according to a 2016 study. A more recent study since last year finds that Americans actually owe about $140 billion in medical debt, which has become the largest source of collection debt in the country in recent years. This study did not include data from the pandemic, which may have pushed this figure even higher.
Sanders also advocated so that all student debt is eliminated. Americans collectively owe nearly $1.9 trillion in student debt, according to the Student Debt Crisis Centera record amount that economists say is seriously weigh the economy.