City Leaders Announce $335 Million in Medical Debt Relief

Published on October 16, 2023

A photo of a stethescope and cash representing medical debt

Today Council President Shannon Hardin and President Pro Tem Rob Dorans were joined by Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and the Central Ohio Hospital Council (COHC) to announce a uniquely Columbus solution to forgive $335 million in medical debt for Columbus residents. 

President Hardin and President Pro Tem Dorans will sponsor Ordinance 2768-2023 to issue a $500,000 nonprofit contract with COHC to cover the costs associated with notifying residents of their relieved debt, including mailing costs for notification letters and third-party verification of mailing address and income eligibility.

"All too often medical debt becomes a financial albatross for working families; as it's the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States,” says Council President Pro Tem Rob Dorans. “Families should not have to choose between putting food on the table and accessing needed medical care. While Columbus City Council does have the power to restructure America's healthcare system; this legislation will bring increased economic stability to working families in Columbus that have been saddled with medical debt."

The Central Ohio Hospital Council is a nonprofit organization that facilities collaboration between area hospitals and community stakeholders to improve the quality, value, equity and accessibility of healthcare in the region. Its four members include Mount Carmel Health System, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and OhioHealth.

Columbus City Council partnered with the Central Ohio Hospital Council to plan a comprehensive medical debt relief effort for Columbus residents. The partnership with City Council will provide debt forgiveness for Columbus residents who were treated at any and all of the four area hospital systems from 2015 through 2020. 

“Medical debt is not just a financial liability. It’s an obstacle to health that makes people put off the care they need for fear of generating an unexpected co-pay or out-of-network charge,” says Council President Shannon Hardin. City Council was thrilled to work with public and private partners to lift this load off our residents and invest in the health of our people.”

To be eligible, patients must have an income between 200-400% of the federal poverty level or between $55,500 and $111,000 for a family of four. Individuals who make below 200% of the federal poverty level are not billed for the medical care they receive.

Medical debt disproportionately impacts women, people of color and households earning less than 400% of the federal poverty level. The Central Ohio Hospital Council has estimated that 340,660 Columbus residents will receive debt forgiveness, with the total debt forgiven across all four hospitals totaling $335,213,212. The average debt relieved per patient will be $984.

“Medical debt is an insidious problem – impacting both the insured and uninsured alike,” said Mayor Ginther. “No one should have to face the prospect of financial hardship because they sought care when they needed it most. Forgiving this debt will go a long way toward helping our fellow neighbors rebuild their savings, pay off their bills, qualify for a loan, make a down payment on a car or support our local businesses.”

Legislation to authorize the City of Columbus’ contract with the Central Ohio Hospital Council is expected to come before Council at tonight’s meeting. Residents who are eligible for medical debt forgiveness will receive notification by mail. No action is required on their part. 

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