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Advocates call for end to wage garnishment for medical debt

It is no secret that going to the doctor is outside of many people’s budget. However, when faced with a serious medical problem, patients have virtually no other options. Medical costs can add up quickly as people receive necessary or even lifesaving care — medical costs that they cannot afford to pay. Rather than find a way to help patients in this situation, some hospitals in Maryland have turned to wage garnishment to collect on debts.

The John Hopkins Hospital is one of the more well-known facilities that has sued patients for unpaid medical bills. Over a period of 10 years, Hopkins filed at least 2,400 different lawsuits. The Coalition for a Humane Hopkins — CAHH — reports that these lawsuits are largely targeting people who do not owe all that much. The median amount of medical debt in those suits was only $1,089.

It is not uncommon for these lawsuits to lead to wage garnishments. Members of the CAHH recently wrote a letter to the John Hopkins University president, calling for the end of medical debt lawsuits and wage garnishment. The CAHH also pointed out that Hopkins primarily targets minorities and those who are already living below the poverty line.

Wage garnishment can completely devastate a person’s day-to-day life. He or she might struggle to pay other bills, like those for electricity, food or rent. Taking succinct action to fight wage garnishment or other legal actions to collect unpaid medical debt may be key to preserving one’s financial security in Maryland.

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