Phoenix, AZ — In a blow to for-profit lenders and predatory debt collectors, voters in Arizona overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure that will substantially rein in debt collection practices and protect working families burdened with medical debt.
Yes votes for Prop 209, the Arizona Protection from Predatory Debt Collection Act, were leading 75% to 25% at the time the race was called early Wednesday morning. The measure will cap the interest rate on medical debt at 3% and limit wage garnishment to a maximum of 10% of earnings. It will also allow people in debt to keep up to $5,000 in their bank accounts, and raise the value of homes exempt from collection from $250,000 to $400,000 and vehicles from $6,000 to $15,000.
“Voters in Arizona today just made it clear: a system that exploits working people in order to pad predatory debt collectors’ profits is not a system that’s going to be tolerated,” said Fairness Project Executive Director Kelly Hall. “Congratulations to Healthcare Rising Arizona on this huge victory for working families; the Fairness Project is so proud to have been part of this coalition. The bottom line is that no one should be stuck with thousands of dollars of medical debt and risk losing their home because they needed health care. Prop 209 is an essential step forward to a more just health care system that serves patients, not predatory lenders.”
“The Fairness Project’s support was critical to this victory for working families, which will finally rein in the unchecked greed of medical debt collectors,” said Jess Grennan from Healthcare Rising Arizona. “There has never been a ballot measure on medical debt before, and the Fairness Project’s expertise was critical in ensuring the success of Prop 209. We’re so grateful to have had their committed advocacy for economic justice and working families on our side.”
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. 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. 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.
“Before now, voters had never taken up medical debt on a statewide ballot measure, but Arizonans have charted a path forward to take on predatory lenders through direct democracy. We’re looking forward to working with citizens in other states who want to pass more ballot measures to protect working families from exploitative lending practices,” Kelly Hall said.