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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 23, 2023 06:50 AM
From: Representative Arvind Venkat and Rep. Donna Bullock, Rep. Tarik Khan, Rep. Bridget M. Kosierowski, Rep. Nick Pisciottano
To: All House members
Subject: Pennsylvania Medical Debt Repayment Program
Medical debt is a devastating burden on many residents of the Commonwealth. It is acutely prevalent among our most vulnerable low-income families, particularly women and people of color, detrimentally impacting their financial and overall well-being. Individuals should not have to drain their life savings just to receive quality health care. As champions of equal access to health care and, for three of us, as healthcare professionals, we believe that a unifying way to address our healthcare affordability crisis is to reduce the burden of medical debt on the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.
Medical debt has been called a “uniquely American problem,” so a uniquely American solution is needed. For this reason, we plan to propose establishing the Pennsylvania Medical Debt Repayment Program. This program would target the medical debt of low-income Pennsylvanians drowning in this uniquely American burden and needing relief. Importantly, this program’s structure both carefully targets relief to those most in need in an equitable way and avoids the concern that debt relief may incentivize over-utilization of healthcare resources or purposefully not paying for healthcare services. This program will also improve the finances of healthcare institutions and providers, concentrated in urban centers and rural Pennsylvania, regularly carrying debt on their balance sheet with little likelihood of payment. Such debt affects their ability to deliver on the necessary mission of providing care to those most in need and results in raising prices for all Pennsylvanians to make up the difference.
This proposal is modeled on efforts at the local level that have leveraged government funds to expand the beneficial impact for thousands of residents. For example, in Pittsburgh, the City Council invested $1 million to alleviate their constituents’ medical debt through a program like we are proposing. For this price, the city can discharge $115 million of health care debt for 24,000 residents.
Please join us in co-sponsoring this legislation. Let us ensure that no one must choose between putting food on the table or getting the medical care that they need.

Introduced as HB78