The extraordinary costs of medical care have been well documented across the country and in Louisiana where almost 1 out of every 4 of Louisianans have medical debt in collection, which is more than only West Virginia and South Carolina. This is a major contributing factor to Louisiana’s average credit score (667) being the second-worst credit score in the US.
To confront the medical debt crisis, local citizens are partnering with RIP Medical Debt to forgive medical debt across Louisiana. One NOLA woman used a bake sale to raise $19,000, enough to forgive $1.9 million in Medical debts held by citizens in New Orleans. Clearview Church in Shreveport raised enough money this year to forgive $2.3 million worth of debt owed in Caddo and Bossier parishes.
Lead minister of the Clearview Church in Shreveport, John Hawkins, was so grateful that even in a year when so many families are dealing with the impact of COVID, saying “This year, people kept giving and giving, and we kept extending the giving drive longer and longer. I think this speaks to how close to home this hits our church and community during a challenging year.”
While neighbors are stepping up to contribute to immediate relief and health and economic revival in Louisiana, others are looking for a more permanent solution.
The increase in medical debt during the pandemic has pushed many activists to renew their calls for Medicaid expansion in the 12 states which have not yet done so. Stacey Abrams’ organization, Fair Fight, is one of the leading voices. The Georgia-based organization launched a new campaign on medical debt awareness and Medicaid expansion last week.
Today, Fair Fight announced that it was not only raising awareness around medical debt, it was forgiving it. In partnership with RIP Medical Debt, Fair Fight bought $212 million in medical debt across the South, forgiving the debt of 108,000 families. In the state of Louisiana, it forgave $17.4 million for 8,265 individuals.
“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further and further in debt,” said Stacey Abrams. “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.”
Families whose debt has been forgiven will receive yellow envelopes notifying them that their debt has been paid this week and next.