OAN’s Brooke Mallory
11:18 AM – Tuesday, January 23, 2024
Following significant criticism of his erratic, unstable leadership in the face of the migrant crisis that is depleting city resources, Mayor Eric Adams declared on Monday that New York City now plans to eliminate up to 500,000 citizens’ medical debt, totaling more than $2 billion, in order to address a “major contributor to personal bankruptcy.”
The city will be collaborating with RIP Medical Debt, a charity that pays hospitals and debt collectors cents on the dollar for large amounts of medical debt. The organization targets and then forgives the debt of those who are struggling financially or have low salaries.
Over the next three years, the city will reportedly spend $18 million to cover the costs of the program.
“For middle- and working-class New Yorkers, medical bills can be financially devastating,” Adams (D-N.Y.) said as he announced the plan. “Working-class families often have to choose between paying their medical bills or some of the basic essentials that they need to go through life.”
According to the NYC mayor, medical debt disproportionately affects low-income households and those with inadequate insurance, making it the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. Even though RIP Medical Debt has collaborated with other major cities, he referred to the debt reduction program as the biggest municipal endeavor of its kind in the nation.
“The evidence is clear that the people who struggle to pay medical debt are sicker, more likely to have high blood pressure, and shorter life expectancy,” said Dr. Ashwin Vasan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health.
President and CEO of RIP Medical Debt, Allison Sesso, announced that there will not be an application process for the initiative. Recipients of relief will be informed that a third party has purchased and eliminated their debt.
“We identify everyone that is 400% of poverty or below or if the debt is 5% or more of their income and then we relieve those debts,” Sesso said.
When Astoria resident Drew Mehalek fell on the ice and was faced with unforeseen medical expenditures, he was on the verge of even greater financial devastation due to his debts. Nonetheless, RIP later paid his obligation.
“It’s such an enormous relief. It’s no longer dragging behind me like a ball and chain,” Mehalek said.
Despite the city’s financial difficulties, Adams still maintained that New York City would greatly benefit from the $18 million pledge spread over three years.
“If you are able to … save $2 billion in debt, that $2 billion trickles down to those households, who are not going to fall into our safety net,” Adams said. “They’re not going to fall into our homeless system.”
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