ARIZONA NEWS

Stacey Abrams’ group wipes out medical debts for thousands in Arizona, 4 other states

Oct 27, 2021, 6:00 PM
Stacey Abrams (AP file photo/Steve Helber)...
Stacey Abrams (AP file photo/Steve Helber)

(AP file photo/Steve Helber)

PHOENIX — A political organization led by prominent Democrat Stacey Abrams donated $1.34 million to wipe out medical debts for thousands in Arizona and four other states.

The Fair Fight Political Action Committee on Wednesday told The Associated Press it donated the money from its political action committee to the nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt to eliminate debt with a face value of $212 million that is owed by 108,000 people across the states.

The organization said letters will be sent to those whose debts have been absolved to notify them. The purchase will forgive the debt of nearly 69,000 people in Georgia, more than 27,000 people in Arizona, more than 8,000 people in Louisiana, and about 2,000 people apiece in Mississippi and Alabama.

Lauren Groh-Wargo CEO of allied group Fair Fight Action and senior adviser to the PAC said paying off medical debt is another facet of the group’s advocacy seeking expansion of Medicaid coverage in the 12 states that have refused to expand the health insurance to all poorer adults.

“What is so important about this is the tie between Medicaid expansion and just crushing medical debt,” Groh-Wargo said.

Of the states targeted, Arizona and Louisiana have expanded Medicaid.

The group has raised more than $100 million since Abrams founded it after her 2018 loss in the Georgia governor’s race. Fair Fight has been most noted for its advocacy of voting rights, but has also been pushing for broader health care. The group launched ads last week demanding that Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp add Medicaid expansion to the list of topics that Georgia lawmakers will consider in a special session starting next week to redraw electoral districts. Democrats are hoping Abrams will run against Kemp again in 2022. A narrow loss to Kemp in 2018 launched Abrams into political stardom.

“I know firsthand how medical costs and a broken healthcare system put families further and further in debt,” Abrams said in a statement. “Across the sunbelt and in the South, this problem is exacerbated in states like Georgia where failed leaders have callously refused to expand Medicaid, even during a pandemic.”

RIP Medical Debt said Fair Fight is giving the third-largest donation in its history. Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gave the group $50 million last year. The group has aided more than 3 million people since it was founded in 2014, typically buying bundles of medical debt at steep discounts from the face value. The bills often are purchased from collection agencies that have been trying to get debtors to pay for years. The group has wiped out debt with a face value of more than $5.3 billion.

Allison Sesso, executive director of RIP Medical Debt, said such liabilities often drive people into bankruptcy, can deter people from seeking needed medical care, and can lead to wages being garnished or liens filed on property.

“I wouldn’t underestimate the mental anguish that people have from medical debt,” Sesso said.

Sesso said her group is not just pursuing debt abolishment “but thinking about how we can improve the system nationwide,” trying to advocate that hospitals should do more to make charity care available. She also said research shows states that expanded Medicaid have lower rates of medical debt.

“We are not the permanent solution,” Sesso said. “There does need to be a larger solution around what we do about medical debt.”

Groh-Wargo said the money was given by donors for political action, but said the money represents “only a small percentage” of what Fair Fight has raised.

“I think of this as politically tithing to help the community we are advocating for and with,” Groh-Wargo said, saying the group has done smaller scale charitable efforts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook photo/Wendy Rogers), (Wikimedia Commons photo/Gage Skidmore)...
Associated Press

Former President Trump endorses 2 Arizona audit supporters for state Senate

Former President Donald Trump has given his influential endorsement to two Arizona legislative candidates who gained national notoriety for promoting the state Senate's partisan review of the 2020 election.
20 hours ago
(Phoenix Police Department sketches)...
KTAR.com

Reward increased for information on suspects of Phoenix cold case from 2013

Monday marked eight years since a man was murdered at a Phoenix apartment complex and authorities are increasing the reward to help solve the cold case.
20 hours ago
(Facebook photo/Cesar Chavez High School)...
KTAR.com

1 injured, suspect outstanding in shooting at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix

A teen boy was injured and a suspect was outstanding following a shooting at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix on Monday, authorities said.
20 hours ago
(Flickr Photo/Grand Canyon National Park)...
Kevin Stone

Grand Canyon National Park transitions to winter operations this week

Grand Canyon National Park is modifying shuttle routes, Mather Campground reservations and North Rim access as part of its annual winter transition.
20 hours ago
Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness (Bureau of Land Management Photo/Bob Wick)...
Associated Press

Arizona ranches, ghost town find new life as conservation areas

A pair of ranches and a ghost town in southern Arizona will be conserved for wildlife and recreation under separate deals brokered recently by nonprofit land trusts.
20 hours ago
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix pushing into new territory with continued warm November temperatures

The air may have a chill in the mornings these days, but don’t let that fool you – Phoenix is on track to finish a very warm November.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
DISC DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
...
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
Stacey Abrams’ group wipes out medical debts for thousands in Arizona, 4 other states