Jinkins’ medical debt bill one of several consumer victories of 2019 legislative session

OLYMPIA – The governor signed a pair of consumer protection bills related to debt today, and two more are on the way to his desk.

Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) is the sponsor of HB 1531, which reduces the chances of medical debt spiraling out of control for patients and their families.

“You wouldn’t hand over your credit card to be swiped by a retailer without first knowing what you actually owe. But that’s often what we’re required to do to get medical treatment,” Jinkins said. “This bill will help reduce medical bankruptcies and protect people’s finances.”

Medical debt is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. HB 1531 lowers the interest rate that often accrues before a patient ever sees a bill, prohibits health care providers from selling medical debt to collections agencies for at least 120 days after the first billing, and requires that patients are informed about opportunities to apply for charity care.

“The 2019 session had a lot of big wins for consumers, and I’m thrilled that four of them were bills the House Civil Rights & Judiciary committee championed,” said Jinkins, who chairs the committee.

Other debt-related consumer wins include:

  • HB 1066, sponsored by Christine Kilduff (D-University Place), increases fairness and transparency for consumers by putting an end to the practice of “pocket service” by debt collectors. With pocket service, a person can receive a debt-related summons that is difficult or impossible to verify. The consequences of ignoring a valid summons can be extremely damaging, however, including liens, wage garnishment, negative credit reports – even bench warrants. This bill was signed into law today.
  • HB 1602, sponsored by Kristine Reeves (D-Federal Way), which will help ensure working families are not left destitute or homeless by wage garnishment. It brings down the interest rate on the consumer debt owed, and lets people retain more of their wages so they can pay for necessities, like rent.
  • HB 1730, sponsored by Amy Walen (D-Kirkland), which makes clear that the 10-year statute of limitations on debt cannot be unexpectedly revived through unscrupulous debt collection practices. Known as “zombie debt,” restarting the clock on the statute of limitations often leaves people in an endless cycle of debt.