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LA County considering plan to erase medical debt for residents

LA County announces proposed plan to erase medical debt for residents
LA County announces proposed plan to erase medical debt for residents 02:42

Medical bills can be devastating and life-changing for anyone — that's why Los Angeles County is considering a plan to erase the debt for hundreds of thousands of residents. 

"A June 2023 report by the Department of Public Health estimates the residents of L.A. county have over $2.6 billion in medical debt," said Board of Supervisors chair Janice Hahn. 

The Public Health report estimates that this proposed plan would help lift 810,000 residents out of medical debt, for a fraction of the cost. According to officials, the county could use taxpayer money to buy out the debts held by hospital collection agencies for $24 million. 

"These bills, hospital bills especially, can be life-altering," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. "Most, the average person doesn't have thousands of dollars in the bank, ready to pay a bill."

Health Access California advocates for equitable and affordable healthcare. Wright and his organization implored the Board of Supervisors to move forward with the plan and help residents cancel their debts.

Similar experiments have already been implemented in Cook County, Illinois — where Chicago is located — and in the nation's capital, Washington D.C. 

"The burden of medical debt is heavier on low-income households — Latino, Black, indigenous and mixed-race households," Han said. 

Supervisors said addressing medical debt could also have a positive impact on the homeless crisis since some people are forced out of their homes because of bills they cannot pay. 

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