Goodbye Medical Debt: Toledo Councilwoman Michele Grim
On the new episode of Prognosis Ohio, part of the WCBE Podcast Experience, host Dan Skinner speaks with Councilwoman and State Representative-Elect Michele Grim, who recently helped pass a medical debt relief plan in Toledo and Lucas County.
With inflation and stagnant wages, the poverty rate in Toledo is higher than the national average. An estimated 41% of Americans have medical debt right now.
Councilwoman Grim introduced an ordinance, inspired by the medical debt relief plan in Cook County, Illinois, to aid in the economic recovery of Toledo and Lucas County residents. In a partnership between Lucas County and the city of Toledo, $1.6 million will be used to eliminate $240 million in medical debt in the entire county.
The county and city will enter into a contract with the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar. The plan will cost the city $800,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, which will go towards a 1-to-100 return in investment.
Social determinants of health, which have been discussed extensively on this podcast, certainly play a role in medical debt. A benefit of this plan is that someone with medical debt will simply receive a letter in the mail that their debt has been canceled — no lengthy applications or even knowledge that the program exists is required. There are no barriers to enrolling in this program unlike other benefits such as rental assistance, SNAP, or Medicaid.
An estimated 41,000 Toledo residents qualify for the proposed debt relief. Residents would be eligible if their medical debt is greater than 5 percent of their income or if they make less than 400% of the federal poverty level. For a household of two people, the federal poverty level is $17,420, meaning that household would need to make less than $69,680 annually to qualify for the medical debt erasure program.
Read some coverage of the Toledo bill in The Hill, WDET, and Buzzfeed, and follow Rep-Elect Grim on Twitter.
- Listeners can donate to RIP Medical Debt and follow the nonprofit on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
NAME CHECKS & RELATED EPISODES
- Listen to the episode with Brian Alexander, author of The Hospital
- Check out Loren Anthes’s presentation on chargemaster data in Ohio from The Center for Community Solutions
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW (PRESENTED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE CENTER FOR COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS)
- On Older Americans living alone, here’s an informative article from the New York Times:
- On Livable Communities in Ohio, read this webpage from the AARP.
- On Gen Z: read this, this, and this
- On doulas and midwives, see this video from the Ohio Senate Health Committee, and three resources from the Center for Community Solutions here, here, and here.
Hosted and produced by Dan Skinner. Copywriting and production support by Angela Lin. “Things You Need To Know” written by Patti Carlyle and Dan Skinner. Music by Kyle Rosenberger. Prognosis Ohio is a member of the WCBE Podcast Experience and the Health Podcast Network. Prognosis Ohio is a production of Prognosis Ohio, LLC.