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Advocacy organizations push for Medicaid expansion in response to medical debt crisis

Medical debt is at its highest peak ever in the United States—$141 billion. Medical debt is overwhelming Americans, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse. 

 

A recent study found that more than 50% of people who were infected with COVID-19 or who lost income because of the pandemic are now struggling with medical debt. This is true even for Americans with insurance coverage, as high premiums combined with missed work put people behind on their bills. 

 

Black and Hispanic communities have been most affected, as even before the pandemic they were less likely to have access to affordable health care and during the pandemic they were most affected by income loss.  Though more than one-third of U.S. adults reported an income loss during the pandemic, Black and Hispanic Americans were hit the hardest, with 44% of Black people and 45% of Hispanics reporting a loss of income.

These communities also bore the brunt of the actual disease—facing disproportionate infections, hospitalizations, and deaths—and racking up medical debt from getting life-saving care. 

 

Research indicates that many of these people could have been saved from insurmountable medical debt had they been insured through Medicaid. These stats have buoyed many activists and leaders to push for Medicaid expansion once again. 

 

Stacey Abrams, a long-time advocate for Medicaid expansion in the South, and her Georgia-based organization, Fair Fight, launched a new campaign pushing for Medicaid expansion last week. 

 

The campaign highlights the severity of medical debt in the United States and how it is worse in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid in an effort to secure support for expansion in the 12 states that have yet to do so. 

 

Today, Fair Fight announced that to relieve medical debt in the immediate future, it has bought up $212 million in medical debt across Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. These residents will be getting a letter in the mail this week to let them know their debt has been forgiven. 

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