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State Treasurer hosting public hearing about medical debt in Asheville

One in five families in North Carolina is in medical debt collections.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels
One in five families in North Carolina is in medical debt collections.

The medical debt problem in North Carolina is among the most acute in the nation, according to credit bureau data analyzed by the nonprofit Urban Institute. One in five families in North Carolina is in medical debt collections.

Only five states have a higher share of residents with medical debt on their credit reports, according to the data.

“Medical debt is crushing family’s upward mobility and threatening to create generational poverty. I’ve been fighting for years against big hospitals like HCA to lower your medical bills but I need your help,” said Treasurer Dale Folwell in a press release announcing a public hearing on proposed legislation in Asheville.

Folwell is coming to Asheville on Wednesday, September 7th for a public hearing addressing proposed legislation (House Bill 1039) that would require hospitals to offer financial assistance to patients based on their income and limit the way medical debts can be collected and more.

The legislation digs into the amountsthat nonprofit hospitals receive tax exemptions compared to the amount of charity care that is provided. Charity care is defined as services for patients who are deemed unable to pay for care. The care can be 100 percent free or deeply discounted.

Many nonprofit hospitals in North Carolina have failed to equal their tax exemption with charity care spending according to a report by The State Health Plan and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The federal and the state government do not require a minimum threshold for community benefit spending or charity care eligibility.

Folwell invites the public to share how medical debt and access to care has impacted their lives at the hearing.

The public hearing on the Medical Debt De-Weaponization Act will be at the AB Tech conference center in Asheville, Wednesday, September 7th from 5:30 to 7:15 pm.

Folwell will be joined by Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof, Dr. Mitchell Li of Take Medicine Back, and Will Overfelt of Mountain Maladies.

The NC General Assembly is expected to take up the bill during the upcoming long session.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.