Mississippians who have outstanding hospital bills could have their state tax refunds taken to payoff their debts.
Republican Senator Sally Doty of Brookhaven, says King's Daughters Medical Center, a hospital in her community, is on a tight budget. She says annually it has about $12 million in bad debt. Doty proposed a bill that would allow private and public non-profit hospitals to be able to recoup outstanding debts through state income tax returns.
"If they could recover just 5 percent of that it would make a huge difference in their bottom line," said Doty.
Doty's bill died. But the issue is still alive. The Senate Finance Committee added her stipulation to a house bill. Doty says hospitals would only pursue cases where they have a judgement against people for a bad debt of $100 or more. A list of names would be submitted to the state department of revenue.
"And then when income tax returns come in and there might be a refund, they would check against that list if a refund was due they would set-off that amount," said Doty.
According to Doty, universities already have this process in place to collect bad debt. The house bill that includes her hospital debt proposal would also allow junior and community colleges to seek state income tax returns for outstanding bills. Democratic Senator David Jordan of Greenwood, voted against the measure in committee.
"If a person is ill or just doesn't have a job or just rock bottom poor and he gets a little income tax return, I'm not so sure it would be the right thing to strip him part of that," said Jordan.
Senator Sally Doty says people would receive notice about the debt from the state department of revenue and they can challenge the bill.