A trio of debt-related consumer protection bills championed by House Democrats passed with strong support today off the House floor. The measures address some of the most common types of debt burdening working families in Washington, often putting them in a deep financial hole from which they cannot emerge.
House Bill 1531, sponsored by Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma), addresses the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States – medical debt. Jinkins’ bill provides protections for consumers to help prevent medical debt from spiraling out of control. These protections include lowering the rate on pre-judgment interest, prohibiting health care providers from selling the debt to collections agencies for at least 120 days after the first billing, and ensuring patients are informed about the opportunity to apply for charity care.
“You wouldn’t hand over your credit card in a retail store to be swiped without knowing the total price you owe. But that’s often what we’re required to do to get medical treatment. This bill will help families avoid crushing medical debt, protecting both their health and their pocketbooks,” Jinkins said.
House Bill 1602, sponsored by Rep. Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way), is about making sure consumer debt doesn’t keep working families in poverty. It provides relief from high post-judgment interest rates, and protects people from being left destitute by wage garnishment.
“I am committed to ensuring we can help break the cycle of poverty as working families are struggling with the high costs of housing, childcare or higher education,” Reeves said. “This bill is one way we are fighting for families and putting people first as we balance the scales for consumers.”
House Bill 1730, sponsored by Rep. Amy Walen (D-Kirkland), ensures that the 10-year statute of limitations on debt cannot be revived by unscrupulous debt collectors. Known as “zombie debt,” this problem can plague consumers who think they have long since paid off or settled a debt, only to find it comes back to cause them problems.
“When a payment is made after the statute of limitations runs out, the zombie can come to life. Television zombies are scary enough, so we have to go after the brains of this zombie debt, and that’s what this bill does,” Walen said.
All three bills passed with strong bipartisan support. They now head to the Senate for consideration.