Communities are buying medical debt for every penny on the dollar, freeing American families from the threat of bankruptcy.


According to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Agency, the number of Americans with medical debt between 2020 and 2022 fell by 8.2 million between 2020 and 2022. Getty Images

Health care debt is a uniquely American problem. We are the only developed country where one diagnosis can impoverish a family.

Unlike other borrowings, no one chooses medical debt. Many sick Americans have no choice but to pile up debt in order to stay healthy or, in some cases, to stay alive. In a June 2022 survey, 40% of her adults said they were burdened with medical expenses.

However, progress on this issue is already underway. According to a recent report, medical debt has fallen by almost 18% since 2020. This shift is no coincidence and shows the real impact that relief programs implemented under the Biden administration have had on everyday Americans.

One such program came out of my city of Toledo, Ohio. In November, the Toledo City Council, in partnership with Lucas County, passed a community-wide medical debt relief initiative.

Inspired by Cook County, Illinois, we partnered with national charity RIP Medical Debt to devote $800,000 of Toledo’s ARPA fund (plus $800,000 of matching commitments from Lucas County) to medical debt relief. I was.

How it works is simple. RIP Medical Debt buys pennies of debt for $1 and then relieves the debt. Our groundbreaking program wipes out her $240 million medical debt for up to 41,000 people at a cost of just $1.6 million. There are no administrative hurdles for community members to overcome. Instead, the person receiving the relief will simply be sent a letter informing them that the debt has been cancelled.

With a public health background, I believe that health is the foundation of a functioning society. In the midst of a devastating pandemic, I decided to run because I realized that public health voices were often missing from policy discussions. I chaired the first independent health committee on the Toledo City Council and am currently serving my first term on the Ohio State Legislature.

Toledo is a difficult city and the pandemic has hit us hard. People lost their jobs or had to take low-paying jobs without adequate benefits. The country is on the road to economic recovery, but the recovery has been uneven, with those most in need receiving the least help.

To address these disparities, the Biden administration enacted the American Relief Plan Act (ARPA). This plan has funded local governments like ours and empowered them to enact targeted solutions to their communities’ most serious challenges.

After helping to use ARPA funds for priorities such as job creation, safe communities and youth programs, I sought out other strategies to foster a stronger and more equitable recovery. has disproportionately impacted low-income and working-class households whose budgets are already tight. By relieving this burden, families can make ends meet and put food on the table.

Visionary communities across the country are now considering implementing that model for their citizens. From New Orleans to Pittsburgh, recovery funds or other funds can be used to buy medical debt for every dollar and cent, making a life-changing impact on everyday Americans.

Opinion polls show overwhelming and broad support for our efforts. According to a recent national survey conducted by Tulchin Research, two-thirds (67%) of Americans believe the Toledo model of health care debt relief is being adopted in their communities, including an overwhelming majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents. was found to support

I have come across many people who have lost faith in government and are frustrated by inaction and discord. But the American Rescue Plan empowers communities to implement innovative and effective policies that benefit people.

Everyone knows someone with medical debt. It undermines the physical, mental and financial health of our families and is the number one cause of bankruptcy. should not wait for solutions from above.

For too long, we’ve looked the other way and allowed this issue to ravage families. I hope that it will be a small step towards a country where no one is afraid of

Michele Grimm is a state representative to the Ohio House of Representatives for District 43, a former Toledo City Council member, and an activist to abolish medical debt.

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