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Wayne County considers plan to erase medical debt for over 300,000 residents

Wayne County officials considers plan addressing residents' medical debt
Wayne County officials considers plan addressing residents' medical debt 01:59

(CBS DETROIT) – Wayne County commissioners will consider a plan on Thursday that may erase medical debt for more than 300,000 residents.

According to the Wayne County Health director, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, one in six residents has the burden of medical debt. In total, they owe $700 million.

"We feel that this is an opportunity that we cannot pass up," El-Sayed said while addressing Wayne County's Committee of the Whole at a recent meeting.

Zoom/Wayne County Commission

At one point, Kyra Taylor faced around $50,000 in hospital bills.

"They're not lowering the prices of the medications. The deductibles are extremely high coinsurance, co-pays, this stuff is high, and we can't afford this stuff," Kyra Taylor said. 

She says debt collectors hounded her.

"They were going to take cars away. If I had any type of property in my name, they were going to take that away because I had to, you know, pay up," Taylor said.

She had filed for bankruptcy but didn't end up going through with it because a non-profit called  "RIP Medical Debt" wiped it out for her.

"So rather than sell to debt collectors, what this organization has proposed is that they would go and they would negotiate the value of that debt so that they can pay down debt on behalf of folks who are eligible. And that's defined here as people who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty line or whose debt is greater than 5% of their annual income,"  El-Sayed said. 

Last October, Oakland County was the latest municipality in the country to contract its services for $2 million using federal COVID relief money.  

Wayne County has the same opportunity if the board of commissioners approves a two-year $5  million contract with the non-profit. 

"If they do this, it is going to help out a lot of people. I'm not talking about just like older people. I'm talking about people my age. Younger kids like this is going to be a blessing to a lot of people in Wayne County," Taylor said. 

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