The federal government will take action against “bad actors” who break the law while trying to collect medical debt, Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday.
Watch Harris’ remarks in the player above.
“Our administration is also taking action against bad actors. People who violate consumer rights to force people to pay medical debt,” Harris said during a speech announcing the new action to be taken by the Consumer Finance and Protection Bureau.
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Harris said some debt collectors “harass” consumers with “dozens” of calls a week, impersonate law enforcement officials or threaten them with jail time.
“Remember what we’re talking about. People trying to recover from illness, for example,” Harris said.
“This kind of harassment and intimidation is unethical and often illegal. And that’s why the CFPB has made it a priority to empower debt collectors.
For years, research has shown that medical debt is the most common cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Health experts have long stressed the need to prevent poor health from ruining a person’s financial well-being, and advocates have pushed for the Affordable Care Act as a way to do just that.
But there is still work to be done, especially in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has infected much of the country, mutating into increasingly transmissible variants over the past two years.
In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office estimated that up to 23 million Americans have developed a chronic condition called long-term COVID, and at least one million people in the United States have withdrawn from the workforce due to fatigue, brain fog and other debilitating symptoms related to the condition.