COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The City of Columbus is considering an ordinance that would clear millions of dollars in medical debt for residents.

If the proposed ordinance is approved, the city would partner with a national nonprofit organization that would purchase nearly $200 million of medical debt from local hospitals at a fraction of the cost.

A public hearing will be held Monday for residents to learn more about the program.

Columbus City Councilmember Rob Dorans said Monday’s meeting will be a chance for residents to hear the proposed contract and who this program will benefit.

He said the goal is to help residents burdened by medical debt get back on their feet.

“What are ways that we can support residents to make the community more resilient post COVID is really how we can make folks more financially stable,” Dorans said.

The proposal to remove the medical debt of some Columbus residents is all in an effort to help those who need it, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Folks had everything disrupted,” Dorans said. “Their wages, houses, all these types of things. Then, on top of that, we have far too many residents that are burdened with medical debt.” 

Dorans said if the ordinance is approved, the city will partner with RIP Medical Debt, a national nonprofit organization.

“They’ve been doing this across the country, with cities and counties, private organizations, charities, and then they negotiate with the hospital system for that debt relief,” he said.

The nonprofit would target the medical debt of Columbus residents who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level or those whose medical debt makes up 5% or more of their annual income. Dorans said council’s goal is to be particular about who gets relief.

“These are folks that don’t qualify for charity care or other types of financial assistance, but they’re folks that potentially have high deductible health care plans,” he said. “These are folks that are living paycheck to paycheck that really can’t absorb thousands and thousands of dollars of medical debt.”

He said the response to the proposal has been mostly positive, although there are some who have expressed concern over taking away the debt.

“If we’re in a position to remove some of the big burdens for these folks, to allow them to then transition more towards financial stability on their own, I think everyone in our community would agree we want more folks who are economically stable,” Dorans said in response to that criticism. “Really trying to drill down in our community the folks that could benefit most from this kind of debt relief.”

Monday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. in council chambers at Columbus City Hall. It can also be streamed live on the Columbus YouTube channel.