In New York, medical debt is a growing problem; over the past five years, an alarming number of residents have faced lawsuits due to unpaid bills. To make matters worse, providers had previously been allowed to use liens on primary residences in order fulfill court judgments - causing financial devastation and housing instability for vulnerable citizens.
Thankfully, two new laws have been signed into affect over the past two years to better protects patients from debt collectors who may harass them for payment of their outstanding medical bills long after the treatment was received.
What is New York's Statute of Limitations on Medical Debt?
On April 3, 2020, New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a new law that reduced the Statute of Limitations on medical debt collection from six years to three. This means that an action on a medical debt by a hospital licensed under article twenty-eight of the public health law or a health care professional authorized under title eight of the education law shall be commenced within three years of treatment. This is not to be confused with “within three years of refusal to pay” or “within three years of default.”
Does the New Statute of Limitations Refer to Past Debt?
While the amendment took effect immediately (i.e. April 3, 2020), the bill was silent as to whether the law would have retroactive effect. Under New York case law, a statute will generally not be applied retroactively unless the language of the amended statute expressly provided for retroactive treatment.
NY’s more recent enactment of the Consumer Credit Fairness Act (CCFA) reduced the Statute of Limitations for consumer debts (i.e. non-commercial debts) to three years from six years, with retroactive application.
Since medical debts have traditionally not been considered “consumer” debts, the question seemingly remains whether a medical debt incurred prior to April 3, 2020 may still be sued upon under the prior six year window set forth by CPLR 213, or whether the enactment of the CCFA has finally reduced the Statute of Limitations to three years once and for all. To date, it appears that no New York Court has addressed this issue.
Can a Medical Debt Collector Go After My House or Wages?
In New York, debt collectors can institute wage garnishment and property liens against consumers who have outstanding bills. However, the same is not true for medical bills. New legislation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul on November 23, 2022, effectively prohibits health care providers from placing home liens on an individual's primary residence or from garnishing wages in order to collect medical debt.
Facing Medical Debt Collections in New York? We're Here to Help!
Should you have an outstanding medical bill and need help navigating your rights and options, call one of our experienced New York debt defense attorneys today at (888) 801-7765, use our chat option, or fill out the form below. Our consultations are free and our rates are low. We can help to devise a plan of attack that best addresses your needs and save you money.