(The Center Square) – Beginning Oct. 1, the Minnesota Debt Fairness Act will ban medical providers from withholding care from patients with unpaid medical bills.

The legislative package also forgives debt transferred to Minnesotans from a deceased spouse and prevents medical debt from impacting credit scores.

“Life-saving cancer treatments or a trip to the emergency room shouldn’t cause a tanked credit score or a lifetime of debt,” Gov. Tim Walz said. “Thanks to the work of the attorney general, legislators, and Minnesotans who’ve shared their stories, these reforms will help Minnesotans get the care they need, manage their medical debt, and feel protected in their most vulnerable moments.”

The legislation was co-sponsored by Sen. Liz Boldon, D-Rochester, and Rep. Liz Reyer, D-Eagan. The bill will also require medical providers to publish debt collection processes, as well as create a new process to dispute billing errors.

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“We all agree that if you borrow money, you should pay it back. We also all agree that we shouldn’t punish people for getting sick. We also agree that a debt-collection system that makes it harder for people to pay back what they owe does nobody any good. And we also agree that debt collection shouldn’t create more debt,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in 10 Americans owe at least $250 in medical debt. The median amount of money in medical debt that’s legally disputed in Minnesota is $1,500.

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