Kansas county sends people to prison for medical debt

It appears that a county in Kansas has found a way to make people overburdened by medical debt struggle more.

CBS News:

That law was put in place at Hassenplug's own recommendation to the local judge. The attorney uses that law by asking the court to direct people with unpaid medical bills to appear in court every three months and state they are too poor to pay in what is called a "debtors exam."

If two hearings are missed, the judge issues an arrest warrant for contempt of court. Bail is set at $500.

Hassenplug said he gets "paid on what's collected." If the bail money is applied to the judgment, then he gets a portion of that, he said.

"We're sending them to jail for contempt of court for failure to appear," Hassenplug said.

In most courts, bail money is returned when defendants appear in court. But in almost every case in Coffeyville, that money goes to pay attorneys like Hassenplug and the medical debt his clients are owed.

"This raises serious constitutional concerns," said Nusrat Choudhury, the deputy director of the ACLU. "What's happening here is a jailhouse shake-down for cash that is the criminalization of private debt."

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