U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has committed to help people struggling under the weight of medical debts and came to New Community to promote the passage of the Medical Debt Relief Act.
The legislation is aimed at protecting people from financial ruin caused by medical debt that can result from unexpected injuries and emergencies, said Menendez, who held a press conference at NCC where he was joined by CEO Richard Rohrman and supporters from New Jersey Citizen Action.
“All the financial planning in the world can’t prepare a family for a sudden medical emergency or an unforeseen illness, and the bills that come with them. That’s why I have joined several Senate colleagues in introducing the Medical Debt Relief Act to prevent medical debt from continuing to harm consumers’ credit scores even after it has been paid off or settled,” said Menendez (D-N.J.). “Responsible people should not be denied credit or forced to shell out more money in interest payments just because they got sick or injured. That’s not fair. And we need to fix it.”
Held on the first floor of New Community’s Health Care Complex at 274 South Orange Ave. in Newark, the press conference was designed to attract media attention to the proposed legislation, which Menendez is co-sponsoring with Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, 43 million Americans have been impacted by medical debt, which accounts for 52 percent of all reported debt.
“This bill will enable many more committed individuals and families to progress into financial security by giving them the time to work on solutions and for us to work with them to keep them progressing towards financial security. Our clients can have no greater supporter than Sen. Robert Menendez,” Rohrman said. In February, New Community opened a new Financial Opportunity Center that’s geared towards helping low- and moderate-income families boost their earnings to ultimately reach self-sufficiency.
Rohrman, in his opening remarks, welcomed Menendez and noted that the senator’s support of New Community goes back more than 20 years. In 1993, New Community received $25 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the HOPE I grant and Menendez, then a freshman senator, was on hand to show his support. The federal funding allowed NCC to build 206 new homes.
Retired ironworker Arthur Lemise shared his personal story of ending up at the hospital after accidentally cutting off part of his thumb while working in his yard. Though he had insurance, Lemise said that a bill he never received went unpaid and hit his credit report, later resulting in denial of a credit card and the interest on a car loan climbing by 2 percent.
“Sen. Menendez’ bill—which gives a 180-day window—would have made all the difference for me, and it will make all the difference for many others who find themselves overwhelmed with tons of bills, or even a bill they forgot to send, and see their credit damaged before they even can figure out what is going on,” Lemise, of North Arlington, said.