Pittsburgh City Councilman Bobby Wilson Passes Legislation To Abolish Pittsburghers' Medical Debt


City Council Seal

Legislative co-sponsors are Councilors Daniel Lavelle, Erika Strassburger, Reverend Ricky V. Burgess, Anthony Coghill, and Barb Warwick

Pittsburgh, PA (January 24, 2023)—Pittsburgh City Councilman Bobby Wilson (District 1) passed legislation at today’s Regular Meeting of Pittsburgh City Council to enter into an agreement with a vendor chosen through the City bid process for the purpose of purchasing and discharging eligible health care debt owed by Pittsburghers.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 58% of debts recorded in collections were for a medical bill. This makes health care debt the most common form of debt on consumer credit records and the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States of America. Many Pittsburghers with health care debt are uninsured or underinsured and are experiencing financial hardship in the wake of COVID-19. In addition, black and brown communities in Pittsburgh have been disproportionately impacted both financially and medically by COVID-19 and resulting health care debts.

Councilman Wilson’s resolution calls on Pittsburgh City Council to allocate $1 million dollars from the City’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) Trust Fund towards this purpose. In compliance with ARP guidelines, Pittsburghers deemed eligible for health care debt relief will be residents of the City of Pittsburgh. They will also have to meet at least one of the following three criteria: (1) have a household income less than three times the federal poverty level, (2) have a household income that is at 65% of Area Median Income, or (3) reside in a qualified U.S. Census tract. The chosen vendor shall seek to buy dischargeable health care debt directly from hospitals in bundles. Beneficiaries of health care debt relief through this initiative will no longer owe their specific health care debt(s) and will not have to pay taxes on this discharge of their health care debt.

The City of Pittsburgh joins other municipal leaders in allocating ARP dollars to alleviate medical debt for its residents. Early last year, Cook County, Illinois partnered with Rest In Peace Medical Debt (RIPMD) and allocated $12 million to forgive up to $1 billion in health care debt owed by Cook County residents. Last November, the City of Toledo partnered with Lucas County, Ohio to allocate $1.6 million to RIPMD to discharge $190 million-$240 million of health care debt held by 41,000 Ohioans. Both municipal governments utilized ARP dollars to discharge health care debts owed by their citizens.

In Pittsburgh, RIPMD has calculated that an allocation of $1 million could discharge an estimated $115 million of health care debt owed by thousands of Pittsburghers. “Providing relief at this scale, where $1 can discharge up to $115 of burdensome medical debt, is plain common sense. Coming out of a global pandemic, Pittsburghers deserve such direct relief. I am proud to have passed this legislation to make Pittsburgh a national leader in reducing the burden of medical debt on our citizens,” said Councilman Wilson.

Following in the City of Pittsburgh’s footsteps, Pennsylvania lawmakers unveiled a plan today to create the Pennsylvania Medical Debt Repayment Program. This program seeks to allocate $5 million in state funds to discharge an estimated $575 million of medical debt held by low-income families in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

For press inquiries, please contact Councilman Wilson’s Chief of Staff, Mohammed Burny, at (412) 215-0528 or mohammed.burny@pittsburghpa.gov.

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