RALEIGH (July 1, 2024) – The North Carolina Justice Center applauds Governor Cooper and NC DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley’s announcement of a groundbreaking initiative to forgive medical debt going back 10 years for North Carolinians living at 350% of the federal poverty level or below.

We urge every hospital in North Carolina to embrace this plan without delay once it is approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medical debt is a pervasive issue in North Carolina, which has the fourth highest percentage of people with medical debt in collections among all states. Because of high out-of-pocket costs, medical debt affects the insured and uninsured alike, often preventing people from seeking care and leading to worse health outcomes.

This new initiative will help alleviate this widespread problem by leveraging federal funds—with no new state funds needed—to provide enhanced payments to hospitals, contingent upon their commitment to adopt specific measures aimed at forgiving medical debt and providing financial assistance to those in need. Should every hospital choose to participate, two million North Carolinians could get relief from $4 billion in medical debt.

“This is an innovative and exciting step forward in mitigating the harm medical debt is causing North Carolina families,” says Reggie Shuford, Executive Director of the NC Justice Center. “We are committed to continuing to fight for additional protections, so all North Carolinians have peace of mind that they can receive affordable, quality health care without incurring devastating medical debt.”