White House seeks to clamp down on providers' predatory debt collection practices

The White House is calling for the federal government to clamp down on malicious provider billing practices as part of a larger effort to combat medical debt.

The effort, announced Monday, aims to take on providers that offer predatory payment plans to eligible patients, noting that lawsuits against patients have increased. 

“The federal government pays roughly $1.5 trillion a year into the healthcare system to provide patients with quality care and services,” the White House release said. “Providers receiving that funding should make it easy for eligible patients to receive the financial assistance they are entitled to.”

As part of the announcement, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra called for the agency to evaluate how providers' billing practices affect access and affordability of care. 

“HHS will request data from more than 2,000 providers on medical bill collection practices, lawsuits against patients, financial assistance, financial product offerings and third-party contracting or debt buying practices,” the White House said. 

The information will be used by HHS as part of its grant-making decisions for the first time. It will also share any potential violations with relevant enforcement agencies. 

In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will investigate credit reporting companies and debt collectors that violate any patient rights.