By Consumers for Quality Care, on November 14, 2023
In Cook County (Chicago), Illinois, more than $280 million in medical debt has been eliminated for over 158,000 residents. This program, a collaboration between the Cook County government and RIP Medical Debt, allows the County to buy medical debt from local providers, often for pennies on the dollar, and then cancel the debt for qualifying individuals.
The most recent phase forgave $173 million of debt for over 85,000 consumers, offering average relief of around $2,000 per person.
The program was supported by $12 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Other cities and counties are also using ARPA funds for medical debt relief, including New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
In Columbus, Ohio, four hospital systems are sending letters to over 300,000 residents, informing them that their medical debt, totaling approximately $335 million, will be forgiven.
This debt relief was also made possible by ARPA, with the city allocating $500,000 for administrative costs and reimbursements to the hospitals. The plan, developed in collaboration with the Central Ohio Hospital Council, originally aimed to forgive $200 million in medical debt at a cost of $2 million.
CQC applauds efforts to lessen the harms of medical debt for consumers and also urges lawmakers and the Biden administration to enact policies that will protect consumers from crushing medical debt.