050924CM0677rSPRINGFIELD – To protect patients from unnecessary medical bills, State Senator Mike Simmons passed legislation out of the Senate on Thursday that would prohibit hospitals from billing a patient who cannot pay.

“When folks get hospital bills that don’t make sense and shouldn’t have been billed to begin with, it erodes confidence in the healthcare system writ large and leaves people afraid to seek care,” said Simmons (D-Chicago). “That is entirely unnecessary and this bill will ensure those folks can get to the doctor without worrying about getting a bunch of bills they cannot afford to pay.”

Senate Bill 2442 prohibits hospitals from directly billing a patient who has a household income at or below the 200% federal poverty line, that qualifies them for free care. Last year, Simmons supported the passing of a new law that requires hospitals to proactively screen for and enroll patients in Medicaid, health insurance and financial assistance beginning July 1.

“Healthcare costs should never be the reason people forgo care. Nor should anyone live in fear of sudden sticker shock from unexpected medical bills arriving in the mail,” said Simmons. “When that happens it represents a systemic barrier to accessing healthcare, which leads to untreated medical conditions and premature death for too many of our family members, neighbors and friends.”

Several constituents in Simmons’ district with low or no income have expressed stress and fear from receiving bills from hospitals and healthcare facilities despite demonstrating a lack of income. This legislation is an example of constituent-led policy, a hallmark of Simmons’ office, and will prohibit hospitals from billing patients who do not have the income to pay.

“No individual or family should be forced to decide between eating or paying hospital bills,” said Simmons. “This critical additional step is designed to protect healthcare consumers from unfair billing practices and abusive collection tactics. It will ultimately save lives, and lead to healthier households and communities.”

Senate Bill 2442 now heads to the House for further consideration.