KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hundreds of people throughout the Kansas City metro area headed to their mailboxes last week and found that their past-due notices and reminders for unpaid medical bills had been replaced with letters declaring that their debts had been forgiven. Even more surprising was that a group of local doctors and nurse practitioners, The Midwest Direct Primary Care Alliance (MDPCA), was behind the debt relief.
Pulling from their own coffers, these independent primary care providers donated over $10,000 to buy $1,474,987.25 in unpaid medical bills belonging to area residents who had been sent to collections by hospitals and clinics throughout the region.
The providers then partnered with nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt to forgive the $1.4 million in debt that had previously been the burden of 784 people. Letters noting the debt relief were sent out to recipients last week; impacted individuals will likely come forward with their stories after hearing of this initiative through press and learning that this isn’t fraud -- it’s a gift of debt relief, no strings attached.
Medical debt affects every community and can destabilize any household. A June 2018 article in the Kansas City Star brought the local impact of medical debt into sharper focus: in some parts of the metro, up to 30% of households have medical debt in collections. And though these families aren’t yet at the point of bankruptcy, a 2009 research piece found that over 60% of bankruptcies studied were due to medical debt, and that the average balance leading to the bankruptcy was well over $5,000.
“When I worked within the large hospital systems, I couldn’t tell you how much an MRI was. Or what a lab would cost the patient. As doctors, we had been blinded to the cost of care, and -- whether we like it or not -- we bore some responsibility for patients’ bills,” noted MDPCA member Ryan Neuhofel, DO MPH of Lawrence, Kansas. He continued, “But now it’s our job, as direct primary care providers, to prioritize thinking about healthcare costs in the context of care and prevent debt like this from piling up in the first place.”
Kylie Vannaman, MD of Overland Park, Kansas and MDPCA Chairperson said, "We take an oath to do no harm, but our profession seems to have forgotten that doing no harm should also include doing no financial harm. It was natural, then, for all of us independent doctors to work together to provide the gift of debt relief to the region."
In addition to providing affordable, transparent health care to their patients, the Midwest Direct Primary Care Alliance hopes to erase even more past debt for local people through an ongoing crowdfunding campaign found online at www.midwestdpcalliance.org/medical-debt.
About RIP Medical Debt
RIP Medical Debt locates, buys and forgives medical debt across America, the only industrialized nation on earth with personal medical debt. We work on behalf of individual donors, philanthropists and organizations who provide financial relief for people burdened by unpaid and unpayable medical bills. A special focus is forgiving the medical debt of U.S. veterans and military troops. Learn more at ripmedicaldebt.org.
About the Midwest Direct Primary Care Alliance
The Midwest Direct Primary Care Alliance (midwestdpcalliance.org) aims to promote collegial relationships between Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices in the Kansas City area and surrounding communities, raise awareness of DPC in the community, and promote fair and transparent pricing for ancillary services, such as imaging, labs, specialist consults, specialty procedures, etc, in the best interests of our patients.