By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Hospitals and clinics may soon be disallowed from charging penalties and interests on the unpaid medical bills of minimum wage earners.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III recently filed Senate Bill 1801, which seeks to prohibit the imposition of interest and penalty charges on unpaid hospital bills and medical expenses of patients who are minimum wage earners or less.
In filing the measure, Pimentel said that while Republic Act 9439 already prohibits the detention of patients in hospitals for failing to pay their bills, the “hefty” penalties and interests remain a common concern.
“These additional burdens affect the less-privileged patients more, since they are the ones who are unable to immediately settle their medical bills and expenses,” he noted.
Under the proposed law, hospitals and medical clinics shall be prohibited to impose interest and penalties on unpaid hospital bills of minimum wage earners for one year after they are discharged.
This means that minimum-wage patients would have one year to settle their dues to the hospitals before penalties apply.
The bill proposes that hospital officers or employees responsible for billing the said patients be penalized with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000, or an imprisonment of one month to six months.
If enacted, the prohibition would also cover minor patients whose parents or legal guardians earn minimum wage or less.