New legislation aims to restrain medical debt collectors

One local businessman is hoping to close some loopholes in Idaho law.

Frank VanderSloot says, "They ran a $294 bill on our employee up to over $6,000 in attorney fees, and we thought that was egregious."

Frank VanderSloot is the founder of the Melaleuca company based in Idaho Falls. After one of his employees was charged with those attorney fees on a medical bill, he realized something.

Vandersloot says, "Which brought to our attention we need some legislation so it can't happen to people in Idaho."

He is now working with leaders in Boise to create the Idaho Patient Act in hopes of closing some loopholes in current Idaho law.

VanderSloot says, "That [the loopholes] allows egregious collection of medical debt that currently run up attorney fees to be far in excess of what the medical bills originally were."

To do that, the new law would require health care facilities to bill patients within 30 days of the visit, give a consolidated summary of services within 60 days of the visit, provide a final statement after insurance and other payments are made in a timely manner, wait 60 days after the final statement before charging interest on unpaid bills, wait 180 days after the final statement before taking collection action, and puts a cap on legal costs from collection actions.

The legislation VanderSloot hopes to introduce in a few weeks is being sponsored by leaders in both the Idaho House of Representatives and the Idaho Senate.

One leader is Senator Kelly Anthon (R, D27) who as a lawyer worked with medical debt collectors.

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Kelly Anthon says, "And in many instances what you find is that by the time you've received that bill, you've already had to pay that hospital. Or, you've been taken to collections in the whole process. So, we're trying to deal with a problem that is very real for Idahoans."

That problem is often confusing for many Idahoans. It's why Assistant Majority Leader of the House of Representatives Jason Monks (R, D22) is also sponsoring the bill.

Representative Jason Monks says, "I think what we've got is a great product. It's going to be better for the people of Idaho. It'll provide some more transparency for them, and it will provide some more protection for them on the back end of it."

That protection for the patient will not come at the expense of care providers.

VanderSloot says, "We are so supportive of the medical community. Doctors deserve to be paid, but it's wrong to take a $294 medical bill and turn it into a $6,000 attorney fee."

Legislatures involved in creating Idaho Patient Act are excited about the reception the bill has received so far from other lawmakers.

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