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  • Writer's pictureBetter Neighbors Network

Organizations Take Action to Forgive Medical Debt in Arizona

Medical debt is overwhelming American families. This year it reached the $195 billion mark.

Though medical debt has long been a problem for many, it increased significantly over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. From January 2020 to March 2021, an additional 2.5 million Americans fell into medical debt, adding over $2 billion to the total American medical debt burden.

There are 79 million Americans who choose between basic needs like food and shelter and paying down medical debt—and about 66% of all U.S. bankruptcies and 25% of all U.S. credit card debt are tied to medical debt.

In Arizona, 30% of the adult population is burdened with medical debt, slightly higher than the national average. That is about 993,735 Arizonians. Median medical debt collections are also the 6th highest in the nation at $888, and the 10.6% uninsured rate is the 10th highest in the nation, ranking among other states that have also failed to expand Medicaid.

Fortunately, some local leaders are taking action. A St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe bought up $1.3 million in medical debt in Arizona and New Mexico in 2021 in partnership with RIP Medical Debt.

Just today, Stacey Abrams' organization, Fair Fight, announced it had bought $212 million in medical debt across the South, forgiving the debt of 108,000 families. In the state of Arizona, it forgave $67.9 million for 27,282 people. These families will receive yellow envelopes notifying them that their debt has been paid this week and next.

“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further and further in debt,” said Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight. “Across the Sunbelt and in the South, this problem is exacerbated in states like Georgia where failed leaders have callously refused to expand Medicaid, even during a pandemic. Working with RIP Medical Debt, Fair Fight is stepping in where others have refused to take action. For people of color, the working poor and middle-class families facing crushing costs, we hope to relieve the strain on desperate Americans and on hospitals struggling to remain open.”



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