Abolishing Medical Bills Attracts BIG Activists – Nurses, Academics and…Bill Collectors?

The most visible contingent grabbing headlines today are nurses. Specifically, the Minnesota Nurses Association which this week employed RIP Medical Debt in a project to help the union locate and then buy some $2.5 million in unpaid hospital bills owed by Minnesota residents – and then have it abolished.

About those nurses

The decision to publicize their distaste for medical debt in this fashion was prompted by their desire to “pay back” the tremendous support the union was given by fellow Minnesotans when they were on strike against five Twin Cities hospitals belonging to Alina Health.

The 20,000+ members picked up the $28,000 cost of the debt purchase – freeing some 1,800 families from further stress.

MNA President, Mary Turner, was emphatic in the union’s pleasure in eliminating this burden.

“Nurses are happy to allow these families to be free of their debts. They’ve had this medical debt hanging over their heads for two years or more. It’s cost them their credit, pushed them toward bankruptcy, and hurt them in so many ways.”

Is there any wonder why people love nurses?

A more complete story can be found on the RIP Website.

About those academics

On another front, four universities – UC/Berkeley, MIT, University of Chicago and UCLA have banded together in NYC to perform an economic impact study of the effects of forgiving personal medical debt.

The need for definitive research is obvious. Although consumer medical debt affects the lives of millions of Americans today, its magnitude is not commonly understood.

That research is gaining momentum, as the team is gathering at a “mini-summit” in NYC Thursday, June 21, to finalize the technology needed to perform what is called a Random Controlled Test (RCT).

Professor Wes Yin of UCLA explains. “The rigorous research design will allow us to better understand the broader channels by which medical debt is incurred and learn how best to reduce medical debt and improve the well-being of vulnerable consumers.”

Professor Neale Mahoney of the University of Chicago adds: “The study’s outcomes might include improving RIP’s ability to identify which types of households benefit most from medical debt relief so that (they) can target debt forgiveness to get the highest bang-for-the-buck.”

About those bill collectors

Actually, it’s about the entire industry that is built around credit extension and collections.

Agreeing in principle that more attention should be paid to industry-inspired solutions rather than relying on government oversight to correct existing wrongs, summit participants hail from banking, the debt buying and collections industry, credit scoring, philanthropy, medical and technology.

The desire is to translate their interest into tangible – and socially beneficial – action.

That the bill collector is part of this movement should come as no surprise. RIP’s founders are two former bill collectors. In fact, RIP is the host for the event and essential to the research and positive work being done.

Now, if we could just get our state and national legislators to follow their lead…

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