RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCT) – State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, spoke recently about protecting patients from medical debt that happens often in Eastern North Carolina.

Folwell spoke about the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act in New Bern on Tuesday. Folwell, along with other community leaders, highlighted the numerous failures in patient protection and the worst concentration of medical debt in collections in the nation.

Over the years medical debt has created generational poverty in Eastern North Carolina. Up to 44% of families are in medical debt collections in the counties surrounding New Bernmore than three times the national average.

Eastern North Carolina is also home to some of the highest levels of poverty, infant mortality, and heart disease in the state. Nationally, nearly 40% of Americans reported cutting back on food, utilities, or gas to pay health care bills.

The Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act, House Bill 1039, would help working families avoid financial ruin just because they got sick.

It would allow the sick access to charity care, limit tactics in debt collection and restrict unreasonable interest rates on medical debt.

“We are talking about multibillion-dollar corporations that are disguising themselves as nonprofits,” said Treasurer Folwell. “They don’t pay sales tax, don’t pay income tax, don’t pay property tax. Everybody in this room cares about public education, public safety, and public roads. Those are the taxes that fund those things.”

The Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act would make North Carolina second in the nation for consumer protections against medical debt. It would help the state hold hospitals accountable for their charity care and billing practices.