Phoenix, AZ – Today, the Fairness Project-supported campaign Healthcare Rising Arizona announced it had collected over half a million signatures to place a ballot measure on the November ballot to limit abusive medical debt collection practices.
The proposed measure, the Predatory Debt Collection Act, would protect families and individuals in Arizona from predatory debt collectors by putting a cap on interest rates for medical debt. It would also shield more of people’s assets, like their homes and cars, from creditors looking to collect on medical debt and allow people to keep more money in their bank accounts at one time.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as many as 100 million Americans are dealing with outstanding health care debt, including millions who owe more than $10,000. In Arizona, more than 15% of individuals had medical debt on their credit file as of December 2020, owing an average of $2,456, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Americans have reported cutting back on basics like food and clothing, draining their savings, and declaring bankruptcy as a result of medical debt. Additionally, 1 in 7 people with debt reported being denied access to treatment due to outstanding medical bills.
In reaction to this, Fairness Project Executive Director Kelly Hall released the following statement:
“No one should have to declare bankruptcy, be harassed by debt collectors, or lose their home because they sought treatment for an illness or injury. This is a matter of basic economic justice. If passed, this ballot measure will provide direct relief to Arizona families whose lives are upended by medical debt. It will also help to ensure people don’t avoid getting care they need out of fear of going into debt — something that is essential while we are still in a pandemic. Fairness Project has a record of supporting successful ballot measures in several states to protect borrowers from predatory lending, increase people’s access to health care, and put more money in people’s pockets — and Arizona is next.”
The signatures must next be validated by the Arizona Secretary of State and various County Recorders who will certify whether the measure has qualified for the ballot in November. This year, 237,645 valid signatures are needed in order to qualify for the election.
Fairness Project and its partners won ballot initiatives in Nebraska in 2020 and Colorado in 2018 to curb predatory payday lending. This year, in addition to working with Healthcare Rising Arizona, Fairness Project is working to pass a measure reducing predatory lending in Michigan as well.