Bill seeks to help low-income patients from excess medical bills

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- A bill in the state legislature aims to help low-income patients.

Senate Bill 71 would limit what hospitals are able to charge patients who don’t have insurance.

It would also prohibit hospitals and medical centers from sending patients, who are 200% below the federal poverty line, to collection agencies.

The bill also requires providers to screen patients for insurance or other programs they may be eligible for.

The bill has the support of Dr. Jesse Barnes.

"We know that medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy," he said.

Barnes works at a community health center in Albuquerque’s South Valley.

"We’re having a conversation with somebody about finding on a test or an x-ray that could be a new diagnosis of cancer," he said. "And the first question isn’t what’s the prognosis, how are we going to treat this? The first question is how much is it going to cost, how is this going to affect me and my family, financially?"

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hear the bill Monday.