House Bill 81 allows county authority owned hospitals to be counted among the types of “agencies” that can collect a debt from consumers with a tax refund offset. Using an income tax refund offset for collection of medical debts concerns Georgia Watch. It is widely known that there is room for error and dispute when it comes to hospital bills. Additionally, this legislation could have negative or confusing consequences given that, under current federal law, nonprofit hospitals have to follow certain protocols and have to abide by limitations on the amount of debt that can be collected from consumers. There are more than 80 hospital authorities in Georgia, and many of them have restructured to enter lease arrangements with nonprofits to operate their hospital facilities. These nonprofit entities have clearly defined billing and debt collection obligations under the Affordable Care Act. According to the proposed Georgia legislation, no judgment needs to be obtained in order to get the offset. We oppose HB 81 because of the negative consequences this could have for low-income, uninsured consumers who may wish to dispute or negotiate their hospital bills.
This bill did not make it to the House floor for a vote before Crossover Day and did not move forward during the 2017 Legislative Session. Georgia Watch will continue to oppose HB 81 in the 2018 legislative session.
See recent news coverage of this bill here.