COLUMBUS, Ohio — Thousands of residents could see their medical debt disappear under a new plan by Columbus City Council.
Council President Shannon Hardin and President Pro Tem Rob Dorans will host a public hearing Monday on the legislation which would authorize the City of Columbus to enter into a contract with nonprofit RIP Medical Debt. The organization works with cities across the country to relieve medical debt for the low-income.
“When we learned that other cities and counties had used their American Rescue Plan funds to specifically target lower-income residents who had medical debt hanging over their heads in some instances for years, it seemed like a very interesting way for us to remove some of those economic barriers,” Dorans said.
RIP Medical Debt is modeled by two former debt collectors, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, who built their careers chasing down patients who couldn't afford their bills.
RIP Medical Debt buys the debts just like any other collection company would except instead of trying to profit, they send out notices to consumers saying that their debt has been cleared.
To date, RIP Medical Debt has purchased $6.7 billion in unpaid debt and relieved 3.6 million people of debt. The group says retiring $100 in debt costs an average of $1.
“The more we dug into this, we thought this would be a really great way for us to really make folks more resilient coming out of the pandemic. This is basically going to be a reimbursement contract until there is a demonstration that an agreement has been made between a hospital system and RIP Medical Debt to forgive a certain portion of that debt and transfer funds. No city funding will go to them until that is clearly outlined,” said Dorans
Here is who can qualify:
- People must be at or below 400% of the poverty line — $54,360 for a one-person household and $111,000 for a four-person household or if the debt is 5% or more of someone's income.
- You must be a Columbus resident
- Your debt must be connected to OhioHealth, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, Mount Carmel Health System, and Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Members of the public who would like to provide in-person or written testimony at Monday's hearing should email Zak Davidson at ZGDavidson@columbus.gov by noon Monday of the hearing with the subject, "Speaking at the Medical Debt Public Hearing."