Bill would limit debt collection

A bill that would prohibit certain debt enforcement actions against individuals for treatment of injuries related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, trafficking or child abuse was heard in the Judiciary Committee Jan. 25.

Sen. John Fredrickson

LB315, introduced by Omaha Sen. John Fredrickson, would prohibit providers of medical services, transportation, medications or other services related to the examination or treatment of a victim of such crimes from referring the individual to collection agencies or distributing information that could affect the credit rating of a victim, their guardian or family. 

The bill would not prevent health care providers from seeking reimbursement for services from the survivor, insurance or other forms of payment.

Victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, trafficking and sexual assault face a unique type of trauma and stigma, Fredrickson said, which can create challenges for victims. Additionally, he said, potential medical bills can deter victims from seeking care.

“This bill will allow for greater access to medical care by alleviating the financial burden that is placed on survivors,” Fredrickson said. “As a result, medical providers can ensure that survivors are identified, situations are reported as needed and, most importantly, that [victims] are provided with appropriate support.”

Testifying in support of the bill was Angie Lauritsen, who said financial security is integral to recovery for victims in dealing with the aftermath of domestic or sexual assault. Collection notices can retraumatize a survivor, she said.

“Just looking at that [medical] bill is a reminder of the assault,” Lauritsen said. “The system is revictimizing assault victims through collection notices and threats of collections and that is why LB315 is needed.”

Katie Welsh, attorney and legal director at the Women’s Center for Advancement in Omaha, also spoke in favor of the bill. A survivor should not have to choose between fear of incurring debt and necessary medical care in the aftermath of domestic or sexual assault, she said.

“LB315 effectively ensures that victims will not be punished for the behavior of their abusers and subject to further trauma,” Welsh said.

No one testified in opposition to LB315 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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