SEIU Member Story Leads To New Law


Monroe Von Ruden

Medical Debt Law Passes Unanimously

Monroe Von Ruden is a steward at Allina St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee, and, like too many Minnesotans, she has had a bad experience with medical debt. But, because she was a member of SEIU, Monroe was able to help pass a law to fix it.

Monroe’s daughter was born with serious kidney issues and required seven months of intensive hospital visits. Even with good health insurance, Monroe quickly ran up over $5,000 in medical bills. Eventually, her wages were garnished $250 ­ $300 per pay period. After SEIU staff alerted her to Allina’s charity care policy, Partner’s Care, Monroe applied and found out that she qualified. To their credit, Allina did the right thing. They cancelled her debt and refunded her lost wages.

New IRS regulations for non-profit hospitals will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future. Under the new rules, non-profit hospitals are required to provide patients with written information on their charity care policy before they start “extraordinary collection actions” like wage garnishments. IRS regulations, however, don’t provide any remedy for individual consumers if hospitals violate the rules.

Using Monroe’s story, SEIU supported a new medical debt bill, HF1647/SF1741, to provide a remedy. Under this bill, if a hospital violated the IRS regulations and started wage garnishments or other “extraordinary collection actions” without first providing a copy of their charity care policy, then a person could go to court and have a judge block collection activity until the hospital complied with the IRS regulations.

In April, the bill passed the Senate 56-0. On Tuesday, the bill passed the House 128-0. Yesterday, Governor Dayton completed Monroe’s journey and signed the bill into law. Said Monroe, “I knew being in a union meant having a political voice, but I never thought I would see my story turn into a real law.”

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