Physicians treating pregnant women/people needing emergency medical care are wrestling with how to comply with what’s been called the bedrock law of emergency medicine when facing strict, new mandates on abortion.
“Confusion among emergency room doctors remains even after the Biden administration clarified this week that federal law allowing abortions in life-or-death situations supersedes any restrictions a state may have on the procedure,” Tony Pugh wrote for Bloomberg Law on Wednesday. His article explained how conflicting federal and state laws are complicating abortion care.
Amid issuing some of the most significant rulings this century, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) also decided on two cases where certain hospitals challenged federal decisions that cost them money.
Hospitals scored one win and one loss in these cases. Both cases involved Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) policies created under Republican presidents that the Biden administration sought to defend.
On June 15 in the American Hospital Association (AHA) v. Becerra case, the Court said in a unanimous decision that HHS erred in the administrative procedures in cutting reimbursement on certain drugs. In this case, the Biden administration had defended a Trump administration bid to compel hospitals to share certain savings they get on medicines with Medicare and people enrolled in the program.
Last Monday, the White House announced four steps to ease the burden of medical debt on health care consumers. The announcement didn’t get much coverage, and one online publication labeled the White House’s actions a Band-Aid.
That characterization seems harsh because, taken together, the steps Vice President Kamala Harris announced are as follows:
Hold medical providers and debt collectors accountable for harmful practices.
Reduce the role medical debt plays in determining whether Americans can access credit.
Help more than 500,000 low-income veterans get their medical debt forgiven.
Inform consumers of their rights.
Source: Medical Debt Burden in the United States, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, February 2022.
When reporting on medical debt and the White House announcement, it’s easy to neglect three of the most compelling angles to this story, all of which stem from the abnormal nature of the highly complex U.S. health care system.
First, the nation’s credit reporting system adds a burden to those who cannot afford to pay their medical bills that high-income consumers do not face.
People in the United States will soon get some help addressing costly health care; three major consumer credit rating agencies are planning to change how they report medical debt.
Starting in July, paid medical collection debt will no longer be included on consumer credit reports, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion said in a joint announcement on March 18. The three agencies also said the time before unpaid medical collection debt would appear on a consumer’s report will be increased from six months to one year.
This change is intended to give consumers more time to work with insurance companies, hospitals and medical offices to address billing disputes before they are reported on credit files. And, in the first half of 2023, the three companies will also no longer include medical collection debt under at least $500 on credit reports.