The city council of Toledo, Ohio and the commissioners of Lucas County, Ohio — where Toledo is located — are coming together to put $1.6 million toward purchasing unpaid medical debts of its residents, which could result in wiping out as much as $200 million in past-due medical bills. This believed to be the first time that a government at any level has sought to help its residents with their unpaid medical debts.
Toledo’s city council approved the ordinance — which will take $800,000 from the $180 million it received from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act — and put it toward purchasing the unpaid medical debts of its residents. Lucas County has agreed to match the funds being put forth by the city, doubling the investment to $1.6 million.
The money will be used by RIP Medical Debt, which has partnered with TV stations, churches, healthcare providers, and unions, among others, but has never worked directly with a government at the local, state, or federal level, to buy and forgive unpaid debts.
Michele Grim is the member of Toledo’s council who proposed the ordinance. Last week, she was elected to the Ohio state House of Representatives.
“I see this as a national movement, because we’re the richest country, but we don’t have universal healthcare,” Grim said in a published report. “We let people go bankrupt. We let people miss doctor’s appointments — or avoid going to the doctor — because they don’t want to pay those co-pays, because they can’t afford it.”
“Washington, D.C., may not have a plan to eliminate medical debt,” she said, “but Toledo, Ohio, does.”
In order to qualify to have their medical debts forgiven, individuals must earn less than four times the federal poverty level or have unpaid medical debts in excess of 5% of their annual income.