Local Government, Mercy Health Join Forces to Bring Financial Relief to Area Residents

LC Commissioner Pete Gerken speaks as Kattie Bonds of LMH, Tony Totty of UAW Local 14, Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, Erika White of CWA and State Rep. Michele Grim look on

The Truth Staff

This week 4,917 residents of Toledo and Lucas County are receiving letters informing them that their health care debts are cancelled.

“This is a great day for thousands of residents,” said State Rep. Michele Grim last week at the announcement that Mercy Health and RIP Medical Debt have partnered with the City of Toledo and Lucas County to help alleviate $7.22 million worth of medical debt for area residents.

“Mercy Health has long been supportive of programs that work to relieve community members of stresses related to medical debt and so we are pleased to be the first medical provider in northwest Ohio participating in the solutions set forth by RIP Medical Debt,” said Bob Baxter, president, Mercy Health – Toledo, in a statement prior to the news conference. “With the support of out local elected officials, our patients are relieved of the financial and emotional burden related to debt and Mercy Health is able to recover a portion of that debt to ensure that we can continue to provide our community with high quality, compassionate care.”

RIP is a national nonprofit that uses donated funds to purchase medical debts belonging to financially burdened individuals. To date RIP has acquired – and abolished – more than $10 billion of medical debt, helping over seven mission families and addressing a major social determinant of health.

State Rep. Michele Grim

The massive relief plan is the first an American city has undertaken, said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, and only the second time an American county has participated in such action (after Cook County, Illinois).

During a Friday press conference, speakers attributed the relief plan to the efforts of Grim, a plan she put into motion while serving on Toledo City Council before being elected to the Ohio General Assembly.

“Michele Grim is the most important figure in driving this debate,” said Kapszukiewicz. “She elevated the issue in the civic discourse, she raised the issue locally and was a tenacious advocate.” The mayor related that Grim also sought funding through the American Recovery Act and “singlehandedly raised the funds.”

He also lauded Grim’s efforts in convincing her then-City Council colleagues “to do what is right.”

“Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States,” said Grim. “What happens in Toledo can change America. Cleveland, Cincinnati and Akron are following the lead of what’s happening in Toledo.”

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken also praised the work of the participants in the medical debt relief plan.

“It’s a community investment – a three-legged stool with the county/city involvement, RIP and Mercy Health.”

However, all the speakers noted that the current plan involving Mercy Health is only the beginning. “I’m confident others will join,” said Gerken. We need more health care system partners.”