Milwaukee County Collaborates with Nonprofits to Pay Off $153 Million in Health Care Debt for Residents

Milwaukee County is partnering with a national nonprofit to eliminate more than $150 million in medical debt for its approximately 67,000 residents.

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted 15-2 on Thursday to transfer $1.53 million from the federal US Rescue Plan Act Stimulus Fund to the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. The organization then combines it with donations to pledge to pay off residents’ medical debt worth up to $153 million.

County supervisor Sean Rowland prepared a resolution authorizing the transfer of funds. He has set a goal for his colleagues to become the healthiest county in Wisconsin, and says the main obstacle is people’s fear of going to the doctor because of unpaid hospital debt. Told.

“This allows them to clear that debt off their books, free themselves from the fear of seeing a doctor, get that preventive care from their primary care doctor, and then go to the emergency room later.” You don’t have to rely on it in your life,’ Rowland said Thursday.

He called the partnership’s scale and impact “incredible”.

RIP Medical Debt was formed in 2014 with a mission to “eliminate financially burdensome medical debt across the United States.” It does so by purchasing large portfolios of outstanding medical debt from hospitals and debt collection agencies at discounted prices. The group says it has eradicated his more than $8.5 billion medical debt for 5.5 million households.

Milwaukee residents with household incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible to reduce or eliminate their health care debt. This equates to her annual income of about $58,320 for one individual and $120,000 for a family of four.

In a statement to Wisconsin Public Radio, RIP Medical president and CEO Allison Sesso said it was difficult to give a timeline for when Milwaukee County residents would receive debt relief.

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“First, you’ll need to formally contract with the county, then approach a local provider, such as a hospital, to obtain eligible medical debt (for the most financially burdened individuals).

The Milwaukee County Commission’s resolution is the first step in that process.

Only two supervisors voted against the plan. Supervisor Patti Logsdon told colleagues that debt relief would only affect about 7% of the county’s total population. He said he could make minimal payments to avoid defaulting on his debts and lowering his credit score.

“Many of the people who end up paying this medical debt have other credit issues due to claims and such,” Logsdon said Thursday. “So I doubt their credit ratings will go down.”

Logsdon said there are better ways to spend the county’s COVID-19 stimulus fund.

A 2022 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 23 million Americans, or 1 in 10 adults, owe a combined $195 billion in health care debt in 2019. The analysis suggests that about 11 million people owe her $2,000 or more in medical debt, and about 3 million people have more than that. Over $10,000.

Among racial and ethnic groups, the report found that a higher proportion of black adults had medical debt, compared to white, Hispanic, and Asian-American adults.

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