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$25 million in medical debt erased in Muskegon County

Nick Youngson/picserver.org
CC BY-SA 3.0 (cropped)

Over 40,000 lakeshore residents will receive forgiveness through grant

More than $25 Million in medical debt is being erased in Muskegon County, as officials say over 40,000 Lakeshore residents will benefit.

The massive debt relief comes through the efforts of Access Health in Muskegon County, who partnered with New York-based RIP Medical Debt to forgive the $25 million in medical bills to area residents who have fallen on hard times financially.

Part of the debt relief was luck, as Muskegon was one of two communities in the nation chosen for a grant program that aimed to learn the impacts of medical debt forgiveness.

“It is really difficult to quantify the impact because what we are seeing right now is that debt relief, and that is significant and huge, and if that was standing by itself, would be an incredible gift to Muskegon County.”

That is Samantha Cornell, JD, the Director of Community-Based Services at Access Health. She says, the impact of medical debt goes deeper than just dollars and cents.

“Medical debt is emerging as a social determinant of health,” Cornell said. “Medical debt can obviously be a significant stressor to folks, and that has a significant health impact. Additionally, though, it means that you literally can’t get an appointment with a physician. It can certainly feed into and does feed into care avoidance.”

Those who received the debt forgiveness are being notified via mail. Cornell says, there is real fear that those who suffer from plaguing medical debt will not open the letter due to medical collection fatigue.

Whether the letter is opened or not does not impact the debt forgiveness.

For those who did not qualify, Access Health says free help is still available through health coaching at AccessHealth.org/RIP.

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