New council bill will discharge Pittsburgher medical debt
At the start of this new year, I’m excited to share details about recently passed legislation that I introduced a few weeks ago to City Council. This legislation states that the City of Pittsburgh will enter into an agreement with national nonprofit RIP Medical Debt (RIPMD) to purchase and discharge eligible health care debt owed by Pittsburghers.
At the end of December, Pittsburgh City Council approved to allocate $1 million dollars from the City’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) Trust Fund to RIPMD, a New York-based 501(c)(3) which has relieved more than $7 billion in debt for more than 4.2 million individuals and families nationwide in the last eight years.
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.
RIPMD purchases large portfolios of qualifying medical debt, belonging to those four times or below the federal poverty level or whose debt is 5% or more of their income. It makes these purchases directly from healthcare providers like hospitals for pennies on the dollar and then, instead of attempting to collect the debt, forgives it.
In Pittsburgh, we have calculated that this allocation of $1 million will permit it to purchase and discharge an estimated $115 million of health care debt owed by about 24,000 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 that this legislation has passed, which will make Pittsburgh a national leader in reducing the burden of medical debt on our citizens.
Also, at the end of 2022, Pittsburgh City Council passed the City of Pittsburgh’s 2023 operating and capital budgets. In addition to the projects noted in last month’s column, my colleagues on council and I funded additional capital projects in the Northside, all stemming from the parks tax revenues.
In Allegheny Commons, I allocated $800,000 to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to invest in the second phase of the North Promenade project. I also allocated $150,000 for planning and design to improve Allegheny Commons East. In Spring Garden, I allocated $200,000 to improve Michael Flynn Memorial Field and create a trail connecting this neighborhood park to Spring Hill Park. In Brighton Heights, I allocated $150,000 to purchase and install an electronic scoreboard and dasher system at the Marmaduke Park dek hockey rink.
Finally, as we start this new year, I would like to welcome new neighborhoods to City Council District 1. Following the decennial census, the passage of a new Reapportionment Plan for City Council districts in Pittsburgh last summer led to the creation of new maps for each City Council district.
The goal of this reapportionment plan was to ensure that each council member has as close to an equal number of constituents as possible. This is based on the principle that the voting power of each citizen should be equal to that of any other citizen under the “one person, one vote” standard.
Additionally, though it was not always feasible, Council made a strong effort to avoid splitting any city neighborhoods and to unify formerly divided neighborhoods when drawing these new district maps. In that spirit, council worked hard to bring the entire Central Northside into my district.
District 1 will also now jump across the Allegheny River and encompass most of downtown Pittsburgh as well as the entire Strip District. If you would like to explore the new Council District map in effect now, please visit gis.pittsburghpa.gov/pghcouncil/.
If you have any questions or concerns, call us at (412) 255-2135, email us at [email protected], or find us on Facebook and Twitter. My staff and I are looking forward to serving all of you in this new year!