Forum held to address medical debt in Eastern Carolina

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) -Medical debt is a nagging problem that has cost people plenty of money.

North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell said the issue has overpowered the country.

“We’re now in this situation not because of the murderous invasion of Ukraine, not because of COVID, and not because of acts of God,” Folwell said. “It is because of health care and health care billing where people can’t see themselves past their poverty.”

The cost of medicine, hospital bills, prescriptions, and more have led to an increase in medical debt, particularly in the East, according to Folwell.

In fact, he said the failure in patient protections have made Eastern Carolina one of the worst concentrations of medical debt that is placed in collections. The public forum was held to address it.

Pamlico County Economic Director Beth Bucksot said people shouldn’t be punished for something they don’t have full control of.

“We all have personal responsibility to take care of our body and sometimes we pass that cost on to someone else because we don’t do our part,” Bucksot said. “Then there are other people who are trying to take care of their bodies, but they have chronic health issues and because of that level of medical debt need to be covered.”

Folwell said House Bill 1039 will help working families avoid financial problems when it comes to medical care.

He said the new legislation will also limit tactics in medical debt collection that he says aren’t fair.

“Everyone knows that something is wrong with medical debt,” Folwell said. “It’s not a Republican, Democrat, or Unaffiliated issue,” Folwell said. “It’s a moral issue.”

Folwell also said he and other elected officials will continue hosting these forums.