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Can the Hill-Burton Act help with medical debt?

In some cases, the Hill-Burton Act can help with existing medical debt provided the debt was accrued at a medical facility obligated to honor the Act. The Hill-Burton Act was created by Congress in 1946 and existed for two reasons. The first was to provide medical facilities with funding for modernization and construction. These facilities agreed to offer a reasonable amount of health care services to poverty-level local citizens in exchange for the government funding.

Unfortunately, the government has not funded the Act since 1997, but approximately 150 facilities nationwide are still obligated to provide services to those who cannot pay. Pennsylvania is home to three of these facilities, meaning if you have received services from one of them in the past, you may be eligible for medical debt relief under the Act.

Even if your account at a Hill-Burton facility has already been sent to collections, you can still use the Act to help pay your bills. First, you will have to make sure you are eligible to use Hill-Burton resources. At this time, your income must be at or below the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines. You are also required to apply at the facility. You can do this before you receive medical services or after.

Even if you are not eligible to use the Act to reduce your current medical debt, you may be able to patronize a Hill-Burton-obligated facility for future health care services. This can help you avoid adding to your existing debt. As always, if you are drowning in health care bills and cannot find a way out, speaking with a bankruptcy attorney may open doors otherwise unavailable to you.

Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, "Hill-Burton Free and Reduced-Cost Health Care," accessed Oct. 24, 2016

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