NEW YORK (WWTI) – Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation to protect patients facing high medical bills that lead to garnished wages or liens against the patient’s property, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“No one should face the threat of losing their home or falling into further debt after seeking medical care,” Hochul said. “I’m proud to sign legislation today that will end this harmful and predatory collection practice to help protect New Yorkers from these unfair penalties. With medical debt a burden for far too many, this is an important step to address this crucial issue.”

The legislation prohibits healthcare providers from placing liens on an individual’s primary residence or garnishing wages to collect on medical debt. Hochul outlined goals in her 2022 State of the State Address, which include addressing medical debt and protecting consumers from abusive and punitive practices that lead to increased and undeserved financial pressure, according to the press release.

“New Yorkers should not fear losing their homes or livelihoods as a result of seeking medical care, especially during such challenging financial times. I want to thank Hochul for signing my bill into law to protect New Yorkers from facing liens on their homes or wage garnishment by medical institutions in their effort to collect medical debt,” State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-NY) said. “We must work together to eradicate medical debt from our State and I am thrilled that we are taking this important first step.”

Almost half of U.S. adults struggle with healthcare costs, and more than 50,000 New Yorkers have been sued for medical debt over the past five years. The governor said the problem is most pervasive in Upstate New York, where hospitals or healthcare providers have been able to impose and enforce liens on a patient’s residence to satisfy medical debt, causing housing instability and financial consequences for vulnerable New Yorkers.