Health care providers will be preventing from placing liens on homes or garnishing wages in order to collect outstanding medical debt under a law approved Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The measure is meant to address the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who have been sued for medical debt owed over the last five years. The problem is considered especially pervasive in upstate New York, Hochul's office said.

"No one should face the threat of losing their home or falling into further debt after seeking medical care," Hochul said. "I'm proud to sign legislation today that will end this harmful and predatory collection practice to help protect New Yorkers from these unfair penalties. With medical debt a burden for far too many, this is an important step to address this crucial issue."

The bill's approval comes after Hochul at the start of the year called for expanding protections for consumers and health care patients, including efforts to protect people who are struggling with high medical bills.

Hospitals or health care providers have used a variety of financial mechanisms to enforce the collection of outstanding medical bills, including liens on primary residences. That, in turn, has led to housing instability.

About 50,000 New York residents have faced lawsuits over past due health care bills.

The measure was sponsored by the two health committee chairs in the state Senate and Assembly, Democrats Richard Gottfried and Gustavo Rivera.

"New Yorkers should not fear losing their homes or livelihoods as a result of seeking medical care, especially during such challenging financial times," River said. "I want to thank Gov. Hochul for signing my bill into law to protect New Yorkers from facing liens on their homes or wage garnishment by medical institutions in their effort to collect medical debt. We must work together to eradicate medical debt from our State and I am thrilled that we are taking this important first step."