Columbus City Council considers plan to forgive up to $200 million in medical debt
Helping eliminate the burden of hospital bills is the goal behind an ordinance heard last week by Columbus City Council.
If approved, it would cancel up to $200 million in medical debt held by Columbus families.
The ordinance would have the city spend $2 million from the American Rescue Plan to partner with RIP Medical Debt.
The non-profit buys bundled debt from hospitals at a fraction of the original cost.
Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown introduced the measure.
"What medical debt does for families is not only follow them around with the stress of owing money, but it also impacts in very real ways the credit scores of families, which we know have deleterious effects across a family's financial security and self sufficiency," Brown said.
Brown said medical debt is disproportionately held by women and people of color. "This is a financial stability issue, it's a consumer protection issue. It's an economic issue to help families get over these kinds of financial obstacles in their life."
Brown said the average amount of debt the ordinance would forgive is about $2,500. "Twenty-five hundred dollars might not sound like a lot to some folks, but debt is debt," Brown said. "Twenty-five hundred dollars is absolutely out of reach for many Columbus families to pay."
Brown said families earning below 400 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $111,000 a year for a family of four, would be eligible for the debt forgiveness.
Officials in the city of Toledo, Ohio, passed a similar measure last month.
The ordinance would require a second reading after the new year to be approved.