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What Bernie’s bill proposes

If enacted, Sanders’ Medical Debt Cancellation Act would create a federal grant program to cancel all existing medical debt, “prioritizing low-resource providers and vulnerable populations.”

The bill further proposes amending the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to prevent creditors from collecting past medical bills and the Consumer Credit Reporting Act to block credit agencies from reporting information related to unpaid medical bills (and hurting patients’ credit histories).

Sanders wants to update billing and debt collection requirements for medical providers as well, to reduce the likelihood of any future debt to be incurred.

“No one in America should face financial ruin because of the outrageous cost of an unexpected medical emergency or a hospital stay,” he says.

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Millions of Americans struggling with medical debt

Around 14 million Americans (6% of adults) owe over $1,000 in medical debt and about 3 million (1% of adults) owe medical debt of more than $10,000, according to the Peterson-KFF Health Tracker.

In the meanwhile, some Americans (including those with insurance) are postponing or skipping treatment altogether due to the costs, reports KFF.

In an interview with the Guardian, Rep. Khanna (D-CA) reveals that he spoke to many Americans grappling with massive debt after facing medical emergencies, resigned to letting their debt ruin their credit.

“People in America don’t think you should go into debt because you go to see a doctor or go to the emergency room,” Khanna said. “It’s kind of human decency.”

Some Americans have mixed feelings

While Sanders’ bill is likely to face opposition from a Republican-controlled House, a 2022 YouGov survey shows 66% of Americans — including 56% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats — support some relief to those with medical debt.

Still, many Americans have responded with skepticism to the proposed legislation and whether relief will come out of taxpayers' pockets.

“Medical debt can become uncontrollable because you can't help what happens to you at any point in your life, but this screams of buying voters,” writes former Ethereum adviser Steven Nerayoff on X.

YouTuber Wendy O asks, “is bernie going to pick up the tab?”

What to read next

Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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