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Majority of Americans in favor of medical debt forgiveness: Poll

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Even for those who have insurance, medical can bills can rack up fast in the event of an emergency and that can quickly land people in medical debt. That’s why medical debt forgiveness has become a priority for some lawmakers, and a new poll shows a majority of Americans are all for it

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The poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 51% of Americans say it’s “extremely” or “very important” for the U.S. government to provide debt relief for those who have yet to pay off medical treatment.

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The poll found support for medical debt forgiveness is especially high in cases where a person was the victim of health care fraud, like being wrongfully billed for services. However, that’s not the only time Americans think relief should be granted.  

Of those surveyed, 59% said medical debt should be forgiven when the patient has made on-time payments toward an existing loan for 20 years. Meanwhile, 56% call for forgiveness if a person has large amounts of medical debt compared to their income or is experiencing financial hardship. 

While reducing student loan debt has been a focus for President Joe Biden, the poll found Americans are more likely to say medical debt relief should be a government priority. Comparatively, about 4 in 10 U.S. adults said it’s “extremely” or “very important” for the government to provide student debt relief. 

The Biden administration did, however, release a new proposal on Tuesday, June 11, that would protect Americans from having their credit history cratered by medical bills.

The rule change, announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would prevent almost any medical debt from appearing on credit reports. In a statement, the CFPB said medical bills “have little to no predictive value when it comes to repaying other loans.“ 

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EVEN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE INSURANCE, MEDICAL CAN BILLS CAN RACK UP FAST IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY AND THAT CAN QUICKLY LAND YOU IN MEDICAL DEBT. THAT’S THE REALITY MILLIONS OF AMERICANS ARE DEALING WITH—AND WHY MEDICAL DEBT FORGIVENESS HAS BECOME A PRIORITY FOR SOME LAWMAKERS, AND A NEW POLL SHOWS A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS ARE ALL FOR IT.

THE POLL FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HARRIS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS-NORC CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS RESEARCH SHOWS 51% OF AMERICANS SAY IT’S EXTREMELY OR VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE DEBT RELIEF FOR THOSE WHO HAVE YET TO PAY OFF MEDICAL TREATMENT. 

THE POLL FOUND SUPPORT FOR MEDICAL DEBT FORGIVENESS IS ESPECIALLY HIGH IN CASES WHERE A PERSON WAS THE VICTIM OF HEALTH CARE FRAUD, LIKE BEING WRONGFULLY BILLED FOR SERVICES. BUT THAT’S NOT THE ONLY TIME AMERICANS THINK RELIEF SHOULD BE GRANTED. 

FIFTY-NINE PERCENT OF THOSE SURVEYED SAID MEDICAL DEBT SHOULD BE FORGIVEN WHEN THE PATIENT HAS MADE ON-TIME PAYMENTS TOWARD AN EXISTING LOAN FOR 20 YEARS. AND 56% CALL FOR FORGIVENESS IF A PERSON HAS LARGE AMOUNTS OF MEDICAL DEBT COMPARED TO THEIR INCOME OR IS EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL HARDSHIP.

AND WHILE REDUCING STUDENT LOAN DEBT HAS BEEN A FOCUS FOR PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, THE POLL FOUND AMERICANS ARE MORE LIKELY TO SAY MEDICAL DEBT RELIEF SHOULD BE A GOVERNMENT PRIORITY. COMPARATIVELY, ABOUT 4 IN 10 U.S. ADULTS SAID IT’S EXTREMELY OR VERY IMPORTANT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE STUDENT DEBT RELIEF. 

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION DID, HOWEVER, RELEASE A NEW PROPOSAL LAST WEEK THAT WOULD PROTECT AMERICANS FROM HAVING THEIR CREDIT HISTORY CRATERED BY MEDICAL BILLS. 

THE RULE CHANGE, ANNOUNCED BY THE CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU ON JUNE 11, WOULD PREVENT ALMOST ANY MEDICAL DEBT FROM APPEARING ON CREDIT REPORTS. IN A STATEMENT, THE CFPB SAID MEDICAL BILLS “HAVE LITTLE TO NO PREDICTIVE VALUE WHEN IT COMES TO REPAYING OTHER LOANS.“