Akron officials have to approve the city’s budget this week. Does it include medical debt relief?

The Akron City Council has until March 31 to approve the city’s operating budget, which some hope will include provisions to relieve residents’ medical debt.

City Councilman Nancy Holland has proposed a resolution calling for the city to use some of the funds from the American Relief Plans Act (ARPA) to relieve its medical debt. She proposed a resolution at her March 13 council meeting and invited medical students and professionals from Northeastern Ohio Medical College (NEOMED) to share their experiences with the council.

The council unanimously passed the proposal, but Holland hoped that funds would be allocated to the program afterwards.

“I really hope the government is seriously considering amending the budget to include some commitment to advance the medical debt retirement program,” she said.

The next step is to revise the budget this week, Holland said. The city can’t wait to deliver the relief supplies, she added.

“Four in 10 Americans are burdened with medical bills,” she said. “My concern is that if we postpone it for another year, we will allow that burden to continue.”

To be eligible for debt relief under Holland’s proposal, you must be four times below your poverty level. In Akron, a family of four earns less than her $111,000.

For its debt relief program, the city can partner with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that has worked on similar projects with other cities.

Congress is also waiting to see if Mayor Dan Horrigan will use his authority over the city’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds for the proposal. must be done.

At a council meeting on March 13, medical students from Student Advocacy for the National Health Program, a chapter of NEOMED, ​​shared stories about the harm of medical debt.

Max Brockwell, a second year medical student at NEOMED, ​​worked in a skin cancer clinic before becoming a student. In that role, he met patients diagnosed with advanced skin cancer and shared their reactions to the diagnosis.

“What really bothered me in the face of this serious diagnosis was the response of this patient, asking our team how long it had been, what the treatment options and side effects were, how they were doing. I didn’t ask if there was anything. [is] What is the prognosis? ‘ said Brockwell. “His response was a cold one: ‘How can he afford to pay this without his family going bankrupt?'”

The Netherlands is asking the city to add her proposal to the budget by a March 31 deadline to ensure community relief.

“This is a serious problem for real people right now,” she said. “Why are you postponing it?”

The council meets at 7:00 pm on Monday

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