Goodroot CEO Mike Waterbury, appearing on WTNH’s Good Morning Connecticut with host Alyssa Rae Taglia as a healthcare industry expert, talked about how medical debt impacts one in three Americans and recent developments from the White House and the major credit bureaus. Below is a transcript of what Mike had to say.
Watch the full segment on WTNH.com.
“Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the country. It impacts one in three people. And a lot of times those people have insurance, which is surprising.”
“One of the things that helps any issue get light is just getting information. The White House reported about $88 billion in medical debt. Some other sources say about $140 billion. And the challenge is it’s growing. It continues to grow. So we need to really understand what’s causing it and start to fix those underlying issues.”
The White House’s New Initiative
“The White House, one, they’re getting information from hospitals and providers to start to identify it. And two, they’re enforcing some of the existing regulations to make sure there’s not unfair billing practices. The surprise billing act, they’re making sure that people are following it. And then also just protecting consumers in terms of unfair billing and predatory collecting and things like that. Just enforcing what exists today, and then starting to identify what’s driving it.”
“The credit bureaus, we’re very excited about what they’re doing. One, which sounds simple but, they’re making sure all debt that’s been resolved is off your credit reports. Because we all know that, even when you pay, sometimes you get another bill and you’re not sure why. So they’re enforcing that. They’re also giving you time to resolve your debt, which, it takes time. You need to see what the insurance company paid, you need to talk to the providers and understand — so they’re giving you a year before it actually goes on your credit report. And then starting in 2023, anything below $500 will not be reported, which is great. I think for us, when we look at it, it’s starting to recognize that medical debt really isn’t the same as other debt. Nobody’s choosing to have medical debt. And so, in some cases, we talk about it almost as medical oppression. So, I think it’s really great that the White House and the credit bureaus are starting to acknowledge that this is unique, and it’s a problem that’s growing, and we need to get more attention to it and really start to understand what’s causing it and then fix those underlying causes.”
What’s causing medical debt?
“It starts with complexity. It’s very hard to understand your benefits, or if you don’t have insurance. And then hospitals and insurance companies — they’re trying to work together to create real solutions, but they sometimes don’t get it quite right. There are things that people can be doing. There’s financial assistance policies and plans that are required by hospitals, so you can apply for them and get significant reductions on your bills, so people need to understand that more. And we’re doing some things in that area where we’re making that easier for people to understand. But it’s getting engaged. When you go to the hospital or you go to a provider, ask questions. What does it cost? Also, maybe not sign that waiver that says you can charge me whatever you want. So as consumers and employers we just need to be more engaged in our healthcare. Because if we don’t become engaged, these issues will continue to happen.”