Berkeley City Council Endorses Strike Debt Bay Area’s Medical Debt Relief Campaign – Now Poised to Eliminate $1,000,000+ in Medical Debt for East Bay Residents.

June 12th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Debbie Notkin, T: (510) 418-0627 E: kith@spicejar.org
Contact: JP Massar, T: (510) 883-0580 E: massar@alum.mit.edu

Strike Debt Bay Area: strike-debt-bay-area.tumblr.com

sdba-banner-u-r-not-a-loan
Berkeley City Council Endorses Strike Debt Bay Area’s Medical Debt Relief Campaign – Now Poised to Eliminate $1,000,000+ in Medical Debt for East Bay Residents.

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019, the Berkeley City Council endorsed Strike Debt Bay Area’s (SDBA) campaign to left the burden of medical debt from the backs of East Bay residents. As the Council’s resolution[i] attests:

  • medical debt is a large and rapidly growing problem that can suddenly confront anyone, even those with insurance coverage;
  • many individuals in the United States end up in medical debt to the tune of tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of dollars, with no possibility of being able to pay it off;
  • being in such debt causes serious stress, with deleterious mental and psychological effects; and

By buying up medical debt at a penny or less on the dollar, SDBA and its national partner RIP Medical Debt are in the process of turning millions of dollars of impossibly burdensome East Bay medical debt into… nothing.

Kate Harrison, City of Berkeley Councilmember, who sponsored the resolution and donated generously from her discretionary fund to it, noted:

 “Companies are raising insulin prices to the point where people are selling off their possessions, going into massive debt… or dying for lack of funds. This campaign is an excellent way to call attention to the absurdity of our medical services payment system, while helping out those seriously in need. Just a $10 donation will unburden someone – who has to choose between paying medical debts and paying for life’s necessities – of $1000 of debt.”

In similar campaigns, Michigan nurses erased $1 million in medical debt locally, high school students in Pensacola, Florida eradicated some $2.5 million, and the NY Times reported how two women abolished $1.5M for hundreds of strangers.

When SDBA’s raises an additional $5,000, RIP Medical Debt will be ready to start buying up East Bay residents’ debt and informing those whose debt has been eradicated. Debtors will get a letter informing them that their obligation to pay has been terminated; they will no longer be receiving nasty letters and harassing phone calls from debt collectors; and they can concentrate on getting, or staying, healthy without the stress of unpayable debt.

Greg Jan, an SDBA organizer and member of the Alameda County Green Party, an organization that has endorsed the effort, said:

“Donating to abolish a neighbor’s medical debt is particularly satisfying – knowing the relief from stress that a small amount, leveraged 100-fold, will bring to someone, while at the same time rubbing our hands because some debt collector somewhere has been denied their pound of flesh.”

Donations can be made at the campaign websites (here) and a FAQ – with more information on the history of such campaigns and how this is all possible – is also available.    Television host John Oliver explained how it all works on Last Week Tonight in 2017 ( tinyurl.com/yy833k95 ).

[i] https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/City_Council/2019/06_June/Documents/2019-06-11_Item_41_Strike_Debt_Bay_Area%E2%80%99s_Medical_Debt_Relief_Effort.aspx

 

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