There are many connections between physical health and financial health, from inadequate health insurance to insufficient protections to prevent the consequences of deep medical debt. Ideas for addressing them abound—and we examined some of them at our online Health and Financial Wealth sessions on Sept. 29 and 30. During these two 90-minute online sessions, Consumer Action brought together non-profit and industry experts and community representatives to discuss critical topics like "surprise" medical billing, medical debt collection, telemedicine, and innovative solutions for access to health care for underrepresented consumers. The convening was presented by Walmart.


Scroll down for more about the panels.

Check out Consumer Action's Health & Wealth Convening Resources to find helpful tools and reading materials on these topics.


'Surprise' Medical Bills and Medical Debt Collection

Keynote & Moderator: Herb Weisbaum (Consumer reporter, KOMO Radio and


‘Surprise’ Medical Bills. The panel discussion will focus on the surprise medical bills received by insured individuals who thought they were accessing covered medical services. The unexpected bills most often result from “balance billing”—when insurance payments don’t cover the charges for out-of-network doctors and hospitals and the patient is held liable. Many states have some protections against surprise billing, but very few can actually protect patients who wander inadvertently into this trap. Topics will include: how the CARES Act prohibits surprise/balance billing; loopholes in consumer protections; and how consumers can avoid balance billing and fight unfair charges.

Medical Debt Collection. The discussion will center on the prevalent (and growing) problem of aggressive medical debt collection and the thousands of lawsuits being launched by hospitals around the country attempting to collect unpaid medical bills. Six in 10 bankruptcies have been linked to medical debt, and some patients even have been threatened with arrest over outstanding medical bills.

Coverage and Care: Innovative solutions. The discussion will include: Medicare Advantage programs that may offer additional coverage beyond that of original Medicare, such as dental, vision and hearing care, and transportation to medical providers; how newly uninsured and other uncovered consumers can access health care; tactics for low-income consumers to reduce medical debt; and tips for negotiating debt down to affordable levels.

Telemedicine and Medical Data Protection

Moderator: Herb Weisbaum (Consumer reporter, KOMO Radio and


Telemedicine and Telehealth. COVID-19 has thrust the issue of remote health care into the limelight. Is it here to stay? What barriers might prevent widespread acceptance after the pandemic? Panelists will discuss the effectiveness of and access to virtual medicine and health care; who can and cannot benefit; models for providing care; and if and when services are covered by health insurance.

Medical Data Protection. During the pandemic, surveys have found that consumers might be willing to share more health data in order to assist contact tracing and other public health initiatives. Panelists will discuss the privacy, security and minimization of health data; the conflict between public wellbeing and personal privacy rights; and the adequacy of federal health privacy law and state telemedicine laws.


Bank of America
Better Medicare Alliance
Wells Fargo


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