Sen Franken from Minnesota has proven himself to be a major consumer advocate. He has recognized the abuses by Accretive Health and others in collecting medical debt and has proposed changes to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). This is not his first pass at trying to change the law. But he has recently put pencil to paper and has proposed a new law called The End Debt Collector Abuse Act of 2012. Interestingly, he proposes to increase the scope of regulated persons from just third party debt collectors to anyone attempting to collect medical debt. His proposed legislation includes:
a. Make medical debt an even more regulated collection activity by applying the FDCPA rules to anyone collecting such debt. This would necessarily include the creditor, something not currently contemplated by the FDCPA.
b. Protect Patients by prohibiting debt collectors in emergency rooms, labor and delivery departments and intensive care units. (How these bastards are allowed in hospitals is incomprehensible to me. Hospitals spend millions of dollars in public relations and can have it crash down around them in a single contact between a patient and debt collector on the hospital campus.)
c. Require Hospitals to give better information to patients about financial assistance.
d. Prohibit debt collectors from seeking arrest warrants to collect on debts. (I am uncertain of what would change here. If a debtor fails to appear for an examination pursuant to a subpoena, a court can still hold the person in contempt and issue a bench warrant. Debt collectors, themselves have no power to issue any such warrant.)
e. Require Debt Collectors to provide additional information about the debt such as the name of the original creditor and a break down of principal, interest and other charges comprising the debt.
f. Increase damages under the FDCPA. Currently, statutory damages are limited to $1,000. This has been the ceiling of statutory damages in 1977. Sen. Franken would propose updating this ceiling to something reasonable.
I think Sen. Franken is on to something here. Frankly, it was only recently that I learned that sleazy collection firms were allowed on hospital campuses to collect debt. From a collection perspective, its a good idea. From a moral perspective, its totally bankrupt. Its just wrong. Nevertheless, Sen. Franken has wisely addressed this issue and is doing something about it. While his character on Saturday Night Live was humorous and comical, this Senator from Minnesota has my respect.
If you have been victimized by a debt collector or have items on your credit report that are incorrect, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin for a free consultation toll free at (888) 293-2882. For more information about your rights as a consumer, visit our website at www.micreditlawyer.com, which is filled with informative videos and advice to help consumers. Michigan Consumer Credit Lawyers is here for you.