Those behind the move are calling it a first for the city and an opportunity to highlight the impact medical debt can disproportionately have on working families.
Hundreds of thousands of central Ohio residents may soon learn some or all of their medical debt has been forgiven, a move that’s the result of a collaboration between the city and the four major hospital systems in the city, but the qualifications for both the patient and the place and date of treatment are specific.
The debt relief covers patients who are Columbus residents and make between 200 to 400% of the federal poverty level, which equals $55,000 for a single person and $111,000 for a family of four.
The patients had to receive treatment at one of the four participating hospitals – Mount Carmel Health System, Nationwide Children’s, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, and OhioHealth – between 2015 and 2020.
The total amount of debt covered is more than $335 million, a little less than $1,000 per patient.
Columbus City Council members said that while that amount doesn’t eradicate some of the ongoing issues with the cost of healthcare or coverage, it establishes a better understanding of the issue while helping thousands in the process.
“Columbus City Council does not have the power to reorganize the entire healthcare system, but we do know that building this collaboration with our healthcare systems, we really learned a lot from them, and they learned a lot from us, particularly residents that have had in the past,” Councilmember Rob Dorans said. “So, I’d like to think that we’ve built the wheel so we can certainly reevaluate in the future how this impacts people down the line.”
Both Council President Shannon Hardin and Dorans said council members will vote to spend $500,000 to cover the costs the hospitals and their vendors spent identifying, verifying, and notifying eligible patients.