Venkat pushes for medical debt relief in budget negotiations

Argues $15 million could alleviate up to $1.5 billion in medical debt

HARRISBURG, March 28 – Seeking to relieve working families stricken with medical debt across the commonwealth, state Rep. Arvind Venkat, D-Allegheny, has introduced legislation to address medical debt and is pushing to include funding for medical debt relief in this year’s state budget. 

“As an emergency physician and a state legislator, I have seen and talked to many families who are heavily burdened by their medical debt, with many choosing to avoid health services they need just to afford to put food on the table for their family,” Venkat said. “If we don’t start addressing this problem now, it will continue to spiral, and families will continue to avoid critical treatment.” 

With a $15 million investment in a state-level program, Venkat estimates up to $1.5 billion of medical debt could be eliminated. 

“If our budget invested in alleviating the medical debt of Pennsylvanians or invested in a standalone program at the state level, many families across our commonwealth could see the entirety of their medical debt relieved,” he said. “Better health and a better economy due to the increased spending power of families are just two parts of many positive impacts of investment into alleviating medical debt.” 

Venkat recently introduced H.B. 78, which would create the Pennsylvania Medical Debt Relief Program. Co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Donna Bullock and Tarik Khan, both D-Phila., Bridget Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, and Nick Pisciottano, D-Allegheny, who all joined Venkat in proposing the program back in January. 

With Venkat being an emergency physician, Khan a certified registered nurse practitioner, and Kosierowski a registered nurse, three of the bill’s co-sponsors are experienced health care professionals. 

In today’s House Appropriations Committee Budget hearing with the state Department of Health, Rep. Josh Siegel, D-Lehigh, asked Acting Secretary Dr. Debra Bogen her thoughts on a medical debt relief program. Bogen acknowledged that medical debt is a “huge problem” for Pennsylvanians and said she looks forward to reviewing the details of the bill. 

The bill has been referred to and awaits consideration by the House Health Committee.